Don tracked down Thomas Hickey, the Kings’ top prospect on defense, who has had a rough few weeks. Hickey sustained a knee injury and a concussion and watched his Seattle team get eliminated from the WHL playoffs. Hickey discusses his season and his injuries and looks to the future. It’s a good, long interview, so here’s the first part…
When last we heard from Thomas Hickey, the 19-year-old defenseman was on top of the world. After all, the Kings’ top pick in last year’s entry draft had just completed a very successful regular season campaign in Seattle, and led the Thunderbirds past the Kelowna Rockets in their WHL playoff series.
Then things got a bit hairy.
Hickey suffered a concussion in the T-Birds’ first game of the second round against Tri-City when an opponent’s knee slammed into his head on a strange play in the neutral zone. Hickey ultimately missed the next three games of the series, returning for the finale in which Seattle was eliminated, but a nagging ankle injury added to his woes. He ultimately required surgery on the troublesome ankle.
But before you start to hyperventilate, just know that Thomas Hickey is well on the road to recovery and is expected to be 100% when the Kings report to training camp this Fall.
Hickey had a few moments to chat about his injuries and thoughts on taking his game to the next level.
Q&A: Thomas Hickey
Question: Can you walk me through all you can recall about the play where you took the knee to the noggin?
Hickey: Well I got a D-to-D pass and I was trying to get the puck up ice as quick as I could, so I was skating and I sort of lost control of the puck and it got ahead of me. Then a fore-checker is right on me and I fell as he was coming to check me and I ended up hitting my head on his knee at a pretty high speed. I don’t really remember too much from there. I got helped off the ice and I was in the trainer’s room after that.
Question: Did you actually lose consciousness?
Hickey: Just very briefly.
Question: Had you ever had a concussion before?
Hickey: No, this was the first one.
Question: What was it like those first few days after – feeling pretty awful I suppose?
Hickey: It was frustrating because you have the headache and everything, but you feel good enough to play. You think you’d never let yourself not play just because you have a headache, but you have to understand how serious those are and they could threaten your career. Still, it is tough sitting in the stands when you just have a headache and you feel you could play but you have to realize that it is pretty serious and you can’t force it, but it was frustrating for me.
Question: How is it today? Any lingering effects?
Hickey: Everything is actually fine now. I was done with the concussion after about seven days and I was back on the ice and playing and stuff. I was symptom-free in about three days and haven’t felt any lingering effects.
Question: The ankle injury: Was it something that was just a nagging injury that got worse over time?
Hickey: It happened in March. We were up in Prince George, I think it was March 4th, and I took a hit and sort of fell back awkwardly on it and that was the first time I felt it. We looked at it and sort of diagnosed it as a high ankle sprain. That is pretty common among hockey players. I thought it was that, and it hurt a lot, but I know that those just kind of nag and stick with you for a while. I played through it during the playoffs and then got to take a better look at it once things quieted down after the season was over. That’s when we realized it was more than that.
Question: What was the exact diagnosis and when was your surgery?
Hickey: I had a torn ligament in the ankle. I had the surgery about two and a half weeks ago. Everything went good. The doctor said that they fixed it up nice, and as long as I do all the proper physio and stuff we will be 100 percent.
Question: I’m assuming you have a walking cast on?
Hickey: Yeah, I have a walking cast and I’m on the crutches right now.
Question: That’s no fun.
Hickey: No, definitely not.
Question: Any other broken bones in your past that you had to deal with?
Hickey: Yeah, I did when I was younger, probably 10 or 11 I had a few broken bones. But I’m a quick healer – I healed very quickly with those – so, hopefully the same thing will happen here.
Question: If nothing else, you definitely have a high threshold for pain.
Hickey: I’ve actually known that for a while with other injuries. It’s good and it’s bad in some respects. You know it allows you to play through some pain, but at the same time I don’t think your body realizes the extent and it doesn’t tell your mind to do the same thing. At the same time too, it kind of fools the people who are taking care of you because they judge their diagnosis on pain.
Question: The Kings were obviously very concerned about this injury.
Hickey: They’ve been so helpful. They were the ones who initiated the surgery and got me out to see their doctors and had the procedure performed by the team doctors. I am very grateful for all of that, and they took good care of me. I’m thankful for that, and pretty much all that I do I report back to them and they want to know how things are going. I talk with the medical staff and Dean and everyone that is involved in hockey operations.
Question: I know that you don’t have a specific timetable, but are you going to be ready for training camp?
Hickey: Yes, I will.
Question: With the Kings lacking in defensive depth, is it safe to assume that you are giving a lot of thought to taking your game to the next level?
Hickey: Yes, but at the same time I understand that it is not going to be an easy transition and it is not going to come without a lot of hard work, but it is definitely in my sights and that is what I am working towards.
Question: Eligibility-wise, what are your options for next season?
Hickey: I can’t play in the American League, so it’s either Seattle or Los Angeles.
Question: If you were to do some additional time in Seattle it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, right?
Hickey: Absolutely. You know, you deal with those things when they happen and if that does happen I will be positive about it. I’m set up really well there and it is a good situation, but you know I will deal with that if and when it happens. My focus is on Los Angeles.