Former Red Deer Rebel Brandon Sutter got his first taste of being back in the NHL as training camp began this week.
The 34-year-old signed a professional tryout agreement with the Edmonton Oilers in August after being out of the game for two years.
On Thursday Sutter spoke to the media in Edmonton where he expressed he was nervous to be back but felt comfortable after the first few days of camp.
“It’s always good to get the first couple of days over with but so far, it’s been good,” he said.
“I think it’s first and foremost just getting your body back into it after two years. I’m 34 years old now, it’s never easy playing at this level and you’ve got to respect that everyone here is in prime shape.
“It’s been a lot of work getting to this point and I’m just happy to be feeling good here now.”
He last played for the Vancouver Canucks in 2021 but after the COVID-19 virus spread through their locker room in March of that year Sutter became extremely ill.
He made a return to the Canucks later that year but had to take a step back due to symptoms of long haul COVID.
Since then it’s been a battle to return to normal let alone skate or even play the game of hockey. After many trips to the doctor, they discovered Sutter’s symptoms from long-haul COVID were a reaction from his immune system.
He moved home to Sylvan in 2022 and over the past year, he began feeling normal again.
In January, in order to attempt a comeback to the NHL, he began training and even skated with the Rebels where he gave the young players advice and tips.
It was that experience that gave him the motivation to give a professional career another shot. Sutter played 14 seasons in the NHL with seven of them in Vancouver.
He explained on Wednesday he’s just happy for another opportunity.
“It’s a great spot to be so I’m trying to make the most of it,” he said.
“You think about where you were two years ago and it was just horrible. Where I am now it’s a huge change. Even last winter I started skating with the Rebels in Red Deer again.
“Even though they’re junior kids, I just kind of felt that little fire inside that wants to try it. I wasn’t quite ready to let my career end on those terms and I’m just proud I’ve got back to the point I’m at now.
“Like I said we’ll see what happens but I’m feeling good and I’m hungry to play, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”