Nathan Horton: Is There A Glimmer Of Hope?

With the way things are going these days, the Columbus Blue Jackets could sure use some good news.  After their latest defeat, a 3-1 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Blue Jackets sit 15 points out of the playoffs with only 34 games left.  Any good news would be welcomed by the team.

Since it was determined that Nathan Horton has a degenerative back condition that has left him out indefinitely, there hasn’t been too much in the way of any additional news in terms of his prognosis.  However, on a recent road trip to Boston, Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson may have given us a glimmer of hope that we have all been waiting for.  That glimmer of hope?  A positive outlook on Nathan Horton.

Davidson spoke about Horton prior to the Blue Jackets game in Boston on January 17th.  “He’s getting a little bit better.  We are letting him heal.”  Given the nature of this injury, this has to be taken as very positive news.

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John Davidson shared some good news about Nathan Horton’s recovery. (Photo courtesy of Columbus Blue Jackets)

“I talk to him fairly often.”, Davidson continued.  “We’re not going to give up on him until we’re sure.  The back is the back, and it’s going to take time.  You never know in this crazy world. I’ve seen players sit out a year and come back. I remember (New York Rangers) Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert having major back operations and then playing most of their careers. So you never know. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”

“I know that he’s young enough that if he can get healthy and strong enough to come back and be a good player, he’s going to want to do it, although if he’s in a position where it could affect the rest of his life if he comes back, then that would be crazy.”

Surgery for Nathan Horton is considered “the last resort”.  It would improve his quality of life, but it would most certainly end his hockey playing career.  The Blue Jackets are going to remain patient throughout this process.

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, if I have surgery, everything will be great. Wrong. Surgery is to be avoided whenever possible — knees, backs, shoulders, whatever.” Davidson said those strong words in regards to surgery being the cure-all.  He would know.  He has had multiple back surgeries of his own.

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Nathan Horton is taking things one day at a time in his recovery. (Fred Squillante/Columbus Dispatch)

“I’ve had two back surgeries. I had a surgeon on Park Avenue (in New York), Dr. O’Leary. He never wanted to operate on anybody unless they absolutely had to have the surgery. He’d try anything to get by without the surgery.”

Confirming Nathan Horton’s Positive Outlook

John Davidson was not the only one who had good news to share about Nathan Horton.  On my last trip to Columbus, I had the chance to sit 1 on 1 with someone who knows Nathan Horton better than most.  That someone, was Blue Jackets TV Play-By-Play Announcer Jeff Rimer.

Rimer has been in the league for over 4 decades, and is a very well-respected voice in the league.  He has also known Horton ever since he was a child.  What Rimer told me in that conversation was very encouraging.

“It is not time to give up on Nathan Horton yet.”, Rimer told me.  He admitted that he has had conversations with Horton’s agent, Paul Krepelka, of the Orr Hockey Group.  The group expressed continuous optimism regarding Horton’s recovery.

Nathan Horton’s back condition was so bad, that he couldn’t even function in normal activities, including bending down to pick up his own children.  But as of late, Horton has been around the team some.  I personally saw him after the opening night game on October 9th.  He had his usual big smile on his face.  He is doing everything he can to stay positive.  Hopefully, this means an eventual return to the Blue Jackets.  In the meantime, Horton and his family currently live in Florida, in part, to be away from Columbus, and the constant reminder of all the games he is missing.

All we can do is hope that Nathan Horton continues to improve.  At this point, his health and well-being is 1st and foremost, no matter how long it takes him to get there.  The important part is that he gets there.  Horton is being patient, and so should we.  Given the events of this season, this is well worth the wait.  Get well soon, Nathan!