WINNIPEG – Imagine for a second how Ilya Mikheyev must have heard.
The sheer panic and terror that comes from having an artery and tendons in the right wrist severed by a skate blade. But also the fear and loneliness that arise after surgery when you wake up in the hospital, in a foreign country, several thousand kilometers from your family and close friends.
That’s why Mikheyev’s camp is so grateful for the way Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas handled his strange accident on Friday night in New Jersey. Dubas went out of his way to make sure Mikheyev was as comfortable as possible from the moment he left the Prudential Center by ambulance to when he returned to Toronto on Monday afternoon.
“Kyle has gone beyond his duty,” said Dan Milstein, the player’s agent Sportsnet in an interview.
This included not only spending most of the three days keeping him company in the hospital, but also going out to personally buy him clothes and other personal belongings, according to Milstein.
When asked why he chose to stay with the player, Dubas credited his wife Shannon for the idea. They spoke in the aftermath of Friday’s accident – which saw Mikheyev lose a frightening amount of blood after being cut by Jesper Bratt’s skate – and Dubas’s wife stressed that if the roles were reversed and it was their son going through something similar in Russia, that they would like to have all the guarantees for which he was adequately cared for.
So the second year Leafs GM canceled a scouting trip, canceled his calendar and joined athletic assistant coach Jon Geller at the New Jersey hospital two nights after Christmas.
Once Mikheyev got out of the surgery and rested, he filled the hours watching sports together. This included Russia’s 6-0 victory over Canada in the junior world tournament and the 5-4 loss of Leafs overtime against the New York Rangers on Saturday night.
Dubas said they probably also saw more football than hockey.
Mikheyev is still comfortable with the English language – he understands more than he can speak – and was really starting to find his foot near the center point of his first NHL season. He had been elevated to the top six in a line with John Tavares for that game in New Jersey and had scored his eighth goal and 23rd point before his night ended abruptly.
The 25-year-old is now painless and in a good mood, according to Milstein, despite being given a stiff 90-day recovery period in which he is not allowed to put pressure on his right hand while the tendons heal. This will prevent him from grabbing a stick or shooting a disc until the end of March.
“I guess on 91 (day) you could see it on ice,” said Milstein.
He was joined in Toronto by parents Natalia and Andrey, who arrived on Sunday for a pre-planned three-week visit in which they intended to see him play a game of NHL for the first time live. His girlfriend Kristina also returned from Russia after spending time there during the holidays.
Mikheyev was returned to their care on Monday after being discharged from the hospital and flying back with Dubas and Geller. The Leafs maintained regular communication with the family during the surgery and all that followed.
It was a happy homecoming for the man affectionately known by fans as “Soup” or “Souperman” because of an interview he did earlier this season in which he said it was the thing he lacked. more at home. His NHL experience has been overwhelmingly positive despite the challenges he faces. He has already gained a cult following even within the Leafs fan base.
“It’s still in pinch-me mode,” said Milstein. “He loves it, he likes it every moment. He feels that Toronto is his second home.”
The agent has free KHL agents who currently attract significant NHL interest for the coming season and made sure they are all aware of the humanity that the Leafs have exhibited with Mikheyev, telling them, “You should know how Toronto has dealt with this. particular incident “.
Milstein worked extensively with the Leafs organization, going back to Lou Lamoriello’s time in front office management.
He made customers Nikita Zaitsev and Igor Ozhiganov leave the KHL to sign in Toronto, negotiated a seven-year extension for Zaitsev with Lamoriello and then saw Dubas honor the player’s subsequent commercial request by exchanging him for Ottawa last July.
What Milstein appreciates most in doing business with them is personal touches. The Leafs have senior player evaluation director Jim Paliafito on the field in Russia throughout the year and make a concerted effort to build relationships with players and their families through multiple face-to-face visits.
The way Dubas handled Mikheyev’s situation took her to another level.
“I say this from a long time ago: The Maple Leafs as an organization, the way they recruit is almost like recruiting in college,” said Milstein. “Many (other) teams would say” Yes, well, they can afford to do it. “
“But taking care of someone and treating people in this way costs nothing. Showing support, showing you care, is much more than money.”