Seguin at full strength for Stars nearly year after surgery

“I lost my whole quad,” Seguin said, pausing briefly for effect. “I had to start from ground zero. We sat down, Matt Nichol and I, we looked at it and it was just so tiny compared to the other side. We started from scratch and went from there.”

Nichol, Seguin’s longtime personal trainer, said he had never seen anything like what Seguin’s body was enduring following the surgery.

“It was pretty shocking,” Nichol said. “We laugh about it now, but the whole time talking as he was coming up he was saying it’s not great, pretty bad. Then when I saw it, I thought, holy [smoke], you really undersold the situation.”

Seguin is back now, quad muscle and all.

He stood outside the visitors dressing room at Madison Square Garden on Thursday morning, hours before the Stars opened their season with a 3-2 overtime win against the New York Rangers, as healthy as the 29-year-old can remember being 11 1/2 months after his previous trip to New York.

That was Nov. 2, 2020, when Seguin had a right hip arthroscopy and labral repair, a surgery required because he tore his labrum completely off during the Stars’ run to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

It was the beginning of a most challenging and arduous journey.

“This is the light that was at the end of the tunnel that I couldn’t see for so long,” Seguin said.

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Seguin played three games near the end of last season and scored two goals, but he arguably shouldn’t have been on the ice at all.

“I knew going into it I wasn’t really even 80 percent,” he said.

Nichol advised him not to play, saying it wasn’t worth the risk even if the Stars were still alive in the race to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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“It didn’t matter to him,” Nichol said. “If there was a mathematical chance he was going to be out there for his team. It was admirable.”

Dallas was eliminated from contention May 8, and Seguin didn’t play in the final two games.

“It was too late,” Seguin said.

That he could even risk it was remarkable.

Seguin couldn’t get out of bed in the days following his surgery. He needed a wheelchair before graduating to crutches. He had to have his right knee scoped Dec. 14 because of a pre-pandemic injury that was exacerbated during the playoffs from his labrum tear and a tear in his quad.

“I never had a day where I was saying, ‘Why am I doing this?’ or ‘Is this paying off?'” Seguin said. “But I did have some days where I had those thoughts creep in of can I play again or who am I going to be when I play again, what am I going to be able to do and what won’t I be able to do? Things like that, they’re tough.”

He stayed around Dallas rehabbing through training camp but left when the 2020-21 season began in late January.

“I wanted to get out of everyone’s hair, and I had such a long journey ahead of me, so I went home,” said Seguin, who is from Toronto.

He rented a place in Oakville, Ontario, hoping to be able to see family and friends.

“But COVID hit so hard and everything was locked down,” Seguin said. “I literally would just go to the gym early in the morning with Matty for hours trying to figure stuff out. Then I would go to the grocery store and I would go sit on the couch and watch hockey. I was by myself.”

Seguin worked with Nichol on all the physical rehab, and chiropractor Mike Prebeg would give him acupuncture therapy six days a week. He’d do more work at home in the morning and evening seven days a week.

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Gains were minuscule. Progress was blurry at best.

“When you’re an athlete and you’re training, you’re lifting heavy stuff and setting your goals, but with this you could only do so much, and it was so meticulous and boring and slow,” Seguin said. “That was the grind part of it physically, which led to it being mentally challenging because as an athlete you just want to keep getting better and keep getting stronger, but anytime we tried to make a step we’d have to go two steps back. There was so much healing I had to do. Then I wasn’t expecting to have so much nerve damage all through that leg and I did.”

Nichol said an example of a big day would be getting Seguin to bend his right knee 10 degrees more than he did a week before.

“Before you worry about is he going to play hockey again this guy had to be able to bend his knee and then stand on one leg and then squat, and not squat a barbell with plates, actually squat down,” Nichol said. “Forget could he actually take a face-off. Could he actually get his body into that position?”

Two months went by, and progress became more evident. Seguin bent his knee. He squatted. He skated. He skated harder. He skated with his gear on.

Seguin regularly talked with Dallas coach Rick Bowness and members of the front office.

“‘Bones’ kept me in the loop a lot, which was great,” Seguin said. “Almost all the games, especially at home, he would call me on his way to the rink just to say what’s up and give me updates if one of the guys hadn’t. He would ask me what I would see on TV. That was awesome. The whole organization checked in a lot top to bottom. I definitely felt comfortable with that.”

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Seguin returned to Dallas in late March, with the five-time 30-goal scorer thinking he possibly could be back for the playoffs.

“I think that showed him it was fun getting back with the guys and helping the team win, contributing,” Bowness said. “That all plays into his attitude now.”

Nichol relented, saying coming back last season, even if only for three games, was important for Seguin mentally.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing,” Nichol said.

***

Seguin has changed his warmup routine to get himself ready to play this season.

He’s doesn’t play in the pregame soccer games, instead spending 45 minutes getting his heart rate up and blood flowing through his lower body so his muscles, especially his rebuilt quad in his right leg, can be firing in time for the opening face-off.

“It’s a whole different routine as far as movement,” Seguin said. “I have all different types of stretching. I do this thing called BFR, which is blood-flow restriction. So, I’ll do a mini workout with that, which is basically a massive band around my leg stopping the blood. Once I’ve done that workout it all releases and really helps activate my knee and my hip and my whole quad.”

Seguin, who has not scored a point in three games this season, turns 30 on Jan. 31. He jokes that he’s starting the back nine of his career.

“I want to play as long as I can,” he said.

It’s a small miracle he’s playing at all.

“I’m as healthy as I can be at this point in my career,” Seguin said. “It’s exciting.”

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