EDMONTON — Connor McDavid won’t say if it was clean hockey or a dirty play that cracked his clavicle and disjointed his season.
The 18-year-old Edmonton Oilers rookie was making his first comments Monday on the injury he received two weeks ago in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
McDavid was barrelling towards the net when he appeared to lose his edge or catch a rut in the ice, spilling him and Brandon Manning and Michael Del Zotto, the two Flyers who were draped all over him, into the end boards.
The injury sparked heated debate among hockey fans and analysts over whether the Flyers grabbed McDavid on the way down or gave him an extra shove into the boards.
Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said it looked like a clean but unfortunate hockey play while famed TV commentator Don Cherry said the Flyers took advantage of McDavid’s vulnerable position to drive him into the boards.
Which was it, McDavid was asked by reporters Monday: Dirty or clean?
“I don’t really want to touch too much on that,” McDavid replied.
“I know there’s been a little bit of debate on whether or not (it was a clean play).”
Did you get an extra push on the way down? he was asked.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” he said again. “I’m sorry.”
Overall he was fatalistic about the injury that has him out until sometime after the new year.
“These things happen,” he said.
“It’s a fast game. It’s hockey. People get hurt. Any time three guys go into the boards at that kind of speed, something is bound to happen. I guess I kind of got the brunt of it.”
McDavid says his recovery is going along as expected but wouldn’t give a revised timeline for his return.
He says he is free of the shoulder sling, that plates and screws are in the bone to help in the repair, and that there is no damage to the shoulder, elbow or surrounding tissue.
“If there’s any silver lining it’s that it’s nothing more than the (collar)bone,” he said.
He has already begun riding the stationery bike to keep in shape while he rehabs the injury.
The break derailed a promising start to the most anticipated rookie season in the NHL in a decade.
The Ontario-born teen has a combination of blazing speed, soft hands, and playmaking ability that has scouts touting him as a once in a generation player.
Injured in his 13th game, McDavid had been on a tear with five goals and 12 points.
He had proven himself the catalyst player on the Oilers, a team that has missed the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons and is once again struggling.
Heading into Monday night’s games, the Oilers (6-12-0) were last in the Western Conference and tied with Columbus in the cellar of the entire league.