A First for Connor McDavid He'd like to Have Avoided as an NHL Rookie

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” - Maya Angelou

How on earth am I going to use Dr. Angelou’s philosophical intelligence to ease the minds of Edmonton Oilers and hockey fans worried about one of the most celebrated NHL rookies?

Connor McDavid broke his clavicle (or, more commonly known as the collarbone) in a collision with Brandon Manning and Michael Del Zotto of the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. McDavid fell awkwardly into the boards late in the second period and will be out of the Oilers lineup for a notable amount of time. 

The simple story to write would be speculation on how long it would take for a young man’s collarbone to heal. We could sit here and relate it to the incident that occurred 12 months ago, when McDavid broke his hand in a fight playing for the OHL Erie Oilers and then returned for the World Junior Hockey Championship. No, we won’t be doing that. Instead, I will use the calming words of Angelou. How does she help in this situation? Well, the answer is simple: McDavid will be better because of this.

On Friday, the Edmonton Oilers host the Pittsburgh Penguins. It would have been the first time that golden boy McDavid met theGolden Boy, Sidney Crosby, in an NHL game. Instead, he will be sitting in a private box eating popcorn with his right hand while his left arm rests in a sling.

Too many milestones in a short period of time could burn out this seemingly composed exceptional player. McDavid was recently named the league’s rookie of the month for October and is on pace to win the Calder Cup.

Does this injury hurt the chances of achieving such an acknowledgement? No, it makes it that much sweeter.

I watched McDavid several times in the Ontario Hockey League. He was relentless. When he got knocked on his derriere, he simply got up. He put a smile on for countless questions from the media. He wore the target that comes with being The Next One and didn’t shy away from the accompanying pressure. He returned from a hand injury – acquired during a feisty moment with Mississauga Steelheads captain, Bryson Cianfrone in which McDavid hit his hand along the boards. He followed up that moment of uncharacteristic aggression by winning a gold medal for his home and native land while contributing 11 points.

Put this all together and you have a well-rounded, grounded athlete who will bounce back from his first extended visit to NHL sick bay.

Is McDavid ready to take on Sidney Crosby? Yes, although Crosby may have had extra motivation for Friday’s meeting to show the league’s next leading man he’s not ready to give up the throne – despite getting off to a plodding start. 

Do you remember the year dubbed, “Sidney Crosby’s Lost Year”? Following a concussion that sidelined Sid the Kid from January 2011 until November, and then when symptoms appeared again, he remained out until March 2012. Then, the guy broke his jaw!. The season was still a milestone for Crosby. The lost years built Crosby up for a 104-point season the following year. It also shed some light on the severity of concussions. The league fidgeted nervously, knowing their best player was out of the game with rumours swirling that his family wanted him to retire. 

McDavid faces the same expectations and brings the same loyal fans to tune into every game he plays. In one short month in the NHL, fans have witnessed his immense skill. He has earned respect under the huge media microscope. 

I may have said that too many milestones may wear this guy down, but we’re forgetting that injuries are milestones, too. We’ve watched it with Crosby, and we’re seeing it now. How you come back from being knocked down, that’s where the new landmark lies. 

So no, McDavid wont be taking on his mentor Friday. But it won’t be the popcorn feeding the new golden boy on the block – it will be the eagerness to return. Expect the continuation of big things when McDavid is back on the ice.