It was a terrifying sight Monday night, as Brock Boeser lay down face first on the ice, clutching at his back after a violent collision with the boards.
Everything came together at just the wrong time and place. Boeser lined up a hit on an Islanders forward, but it happened to be the hard-hitting Cal Clutterbuck, who sent him flying instead. The door at the bench was open because Jake Virtanen had just stepped off the ice and was still in the doorway.
Boeser’s lower back hit the edge of the open gate. It looked like there was potential for a serious back injury, but instead of stretcher, he got a Stecher, as his teammate Troy Stecher helped him to his feet along with Head Athletic Therapist Jon Sanderson. Stecher, along with Michael Del Zotto and Chris Tanev, accompanied Boeser to the hospital, with Stecher keeping Boeser's mom updated. He and Boeser are roommates and were teammates at the University of North Dakota, so their friendship goes back several years.
Any time a back injury is a possibility, my mind flashes back to Mason Raymond being helped off the ice in Game 6 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. It turned out that Raymond had a severe spinal injury — a vertebrae compression fracture — and likely should have had a stretcher take him off.
Fortunately, Boeser’s injury is nowhere near as severe. The Canucks are reporting that Boeser was “diagnosed with a soft tissue injury and a small non-structural, non-displaced fracture of the transverse process in his lower back.”
The transverse process is the two “wings” of the vertebra, to which muscles and ligaments attach. A non-structural, non-displaced fracture to this area is far less severe than a fracture elsewhere along the back, but can still cause severe pain, along with swelling and inflammation.
Boeser is expected to be out 4-6 weeks, which rules out a return this season. Even if he were able to recover in time to play by the end of the season, there wouldn’t be much point; it’s far better for Boeser to rest up and be ready to train during the summer and play next season.
This is an unfortunate end to Boeser’s rookie campaign, cutting short both his chance at a late-season Calder Trophy run, as well as his opportunity to break Pavel Bure’s franchise record for most points. Bure reached 34 goals and 60 points, while Boeser ends his rookie season with 29 goals and 55 points, just five away from matching Bure in both categories.
With 16 games remaining in the season, it seemed almost certain Boeser would best Bure, giving the Canucks a big positive story to end what has been an overall disappointing year. Instead, Canucks fans were robbed of that victorious moment by a confluence of bad luck.
On the plus side, Boeser will hit the rest of his rookie bonuses despite missing the end of the season.
If Brock Boeser is shut down for season - he will max out his Schedule A bonuses through 1 of following:— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) March 6, 2018
(i) Ice-time (finish in top 6 forwards)
(v) 0.73 PPG rate (will reach automatically)
(vii) named to all rookie team
Boeser will earn $850,000 in Schedule A bonuses#Canucks pic.twitter.com/amKKF3x05z
That’s a nice financial bonus for Boeser, but it likely doesn’t do much to ease the pain.