BRIGHTON, Mass – Charlie McAvoy was out on the Warrior Ice Arena practice ice on Monday afternoon taking a few twirls ahead of the team’s first skating session coming out of NHL All-Star weekend.
Under normal circumstances that would be no big deal, of course.
But in this instance, the 20-year-old defenseman was wearing a cranberry no-contact jersey in his first hockey act since undergoing an ablation procedure for an abnormal heart rhythm just a week ago at Mass General Hospital.
McAvoy, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney and B’s team doctor David Finn were all on hand prior to practice to discuss McAvoy’s procedure, his prognosis and the events leading up to the medical procedure performed on Boston’s bright young talent. McAvoy said it was a relief to know that his supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) condition was one that, though it involved his heart, didn’t put him in danger and could be treated effectively with one procedure.
So, McAvoy’s absence shouldn’t be very long and he’s expected to go right back to being the workhorse rookie defenseman that’s been at the heart of so many good things for the Black and Gold this season.
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“I think it was a relief, first off, to find out that it was not life-threatening and not dangerous to my overall health. That was my best takeaway from it…to realize that obviously, because I’m in there, I’m kind of nervous that this is going to be something that is really bad and that I might not be able to play again or anything like that,” said McAvoy. “To find out that it was something that was not dangerous, not life-threatening and something that I could still continue to play with, that was a good takeaway right away from the overall situation.
“I have no reason to think that I would come back different. I think maybe just some time, some extra time, to get back, but I’m still the same person. I’m one week removed. I feel good, so we’ll get back out there, and we’ll get back on the ice and see how things are going. When the time is right [for a return], I’ll get back out there.”
Sweeney indicated that McAvoy will be having a follow-up appointment with doctors this week, and that will determine the timetable for his return to playing.
According to the initial timetable given out by the Bruins, McAvoy was expected to return roughly a week from today ahead of back-to-back road games against the Red Wings and Rangers. But Sweeney indicated it all depends on how McAvoy is doing, which is perfectly fine judging by his presence on the ice Monday: “It’s all based on how Charlie feels at this point.”
What’s amazing is that McAvoy played roughly six weeks after his “episode” where his heart was racing in a Nov. 26 loss to the Oilers and there was no hint in his approach or play on the ice that any kind of heart procedure was looming. Instead, McAvoy went out and played a game-high 28 minutes, 11 seconds while scoring a goal in his next game against the Tampa Bay Lightning and mapped out a surgery date that could take advantage of time off for NHL All-Star weekend.
That would be heady stuff for most 20-year-olds (McAvoy was actually still 19 when it was diagnosed in November) even if the heart condition and treatment wasn’t considered life- or career-threatening, but then again most 20-year-olds aren’t like Charlie McAvoy.
“For us, we were very fortunate that we had [Dr. Finn] on site and that Charlie was being very honest with what he was going through. We were able to take the next steps and really make the best medical decision,” said Sweeney, of the initial time that McAvoy was complaining of symptoms after the loss to the Oilers. “We can talk about the time frame when the decision was made, but ultimately it was about making the best decision for Charlie regardless of what games he was going to miss.
“He was 19 at the time when he was diagnosed and one of my boys is 19,” Sweeney said. “Fortunately, the medical staff was very definitive in their diagnosis, and I was quickly educated to the risks that were not there [when you talk about] heart situations. I think we felt very comfortable. Clearly, we needed to be 100 percent, if Charlie was going to be [playing], that he was at zero risk. His family was involved in all the decisions and during the dad’s trip [in early December] we just talked to make sure that Charlie was good mentally and physically through this entire process. That’s been one of the more amazing things is how well he’s handled it knowing that this was on deck. It says a lot about him.”
McAvoy’s poise has always been one of his best attributes as a hockey player, but he took it to another level these past two months while addressing his own health situation. Now, McAvoy and the Bruins can look forward to their D-man prodigy returning in short order to his duties as one of the best young blueliners on the planet and somebody who’s already become a difference-maker for the Black and Gold.