Raymond being helped off the ice in Game 6 (photo courtesy citytv.ca/toronto)

May Ray Day

Mason Raymond completes his comback journey tonight (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tonight marks the official return of Canucks forward Mason Raymond (for real this time, Vigneault swears he’s seen the paperwork). The speedy winger will be lacing up the skates for the first time in nearly six months, much to the relief of his teammates and fans. Six months may seem like a long time to some, but if you ask Raymond he’d probably tell you he’s just happy to be back at all. There was a time when he wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to play again.

It’s hard to forget seeing Raymond crumple to the ice after going awkwardly backwards into the cornerboards after getting tangled up with Johnny Boychuk during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. What looked like a harmless play at first was quickly proven to be much, much worse. Just watching the struggle he had lifting his legs off the ice at the bench told us all we needed to know… this was serious.

The diagnosis, a vertebrae compression fracture, made it sound bad, but it wasn’t until he appeared at Game 7 in a back brace that the gravity of it set in. As devastating as the results of that game were for fans and players alike, that pain couldn’t possibly compare to what Raymond had to suffer through over the next few months.

“Why it takes an injury to make you realize it, I don’t know. But I couldn’t walk. You can’t walk, you got a whole different outlook on life. Again, putting your clothes on, I couldn’t do it. Those are things you take from granted when you wake up every morning.”

Raymond spent over a month in his back brace, and hadn’t even started skating when training camp opened in September. It’s been a long, hard road to get back to the NHL for Mason Raymond, but the road to recovery doesn’t end just yet.

“It’s a little like starting from scratch. I just went from Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to Game 25 of the regular season. It’s going to be different. Once I get into the game I will feel more comfortable. But is that going to take some time to get back to game shape and game mode? Yeah, but I’m very pleased with the process.”

Given the severity of his injury, Raymond knows this will be an injury that plagues him the rest of his life. One has to wonder just how much this will affect his speed, by far his biggest weapon. For now, however, Mason will be given the chance to get back into game shape without the second line expectations he’s been used to the last few years. He’ll be paired up with Cody Hodgson and Jannik Hansen on the third line, with Manny Malhotra sliding down to take Aaron Volpatti’s place on the fourth line (Volpatti will miss the remainder of the season as he requires surgery for a shoulder labrum tear). It may take him a long time to get his game back, but as I’m sure the fans will let him know tonight, we’re all just thrilled to see him back doing what he loves.

On behalf of all of us at the Canuck Way, welcome back May Ray!

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