Despite being an NHL defenseman, Erik Gudbranson spent most of the lockout living at his parent’s house just outside of Ottawa.
"To be completely honest with you, I was getting sick of it by the end. I was driving my mom up the wall," he said with a laugh.
The 21-year-old was forced to live back at home while he was recovering from a shoulder injury he suffered late in the summer. The rigorous rehab process meant that Gudbranson needed a lot of support from his parents Wayne and Donna.
"That was exactly where I needed to be. Staying at home and going through a process like that, you’ve got your parents on top of you. As childish as it sounds, it’s good to have your dad there saying, ‘Listen – get up and go to the gym’," explained Gudbranson. "Not that that was ever a problem, but ‘Have you done your exercise today? What did you eat today? Have you been stickhandling in the basement?’ It was good to have them around there to do that and it certainly helped.
Gudbranson is recovering from a significant shoulder injury he suffered while wakeboarding with friends in early September. At first, the injury was shrouded in mystery and it was reported he sustained it while doing hockey-related activities. However, Gudbranson took it upon himself to clear up the story and make sure the Panthers management and his teammates knew the truth. He phoned each of his teammates individually to explain the situation.
"These are the guys that I work with and I’m not going to lie to them. I think I’m a reasonably well-respected guy in this room and I’m a very honest person," said Gudbranson. "The first person I called was Dale Tallon and told him what happened. There’s no point lying to guys like this. You expect them to have your back and I’d expect nothing less from any of them. I gave them the respect to tell them exactly what happened and to give them a personal call. I think it went a long way."
By admitting he suffered the injury while wakeboarding, the Panthers didn’t have to pay Gudbranson during the lockout. If he had been injured doing some form of training, the club would have been on the hook to pay for his medical bills, surgery and paycheque during the lockout. Instead, Gudbranson was suspended by the team – but his return to the lineup appears to be on the horizon.
He has been skating for the past month – at first just taking it easy with the Ottawa GeeGee’s men’s hockey team. But now that he’s back in south Florida, Gudbranson has re-joined his Panthers teammates on the ice. He could be able to return to the lineup in the two weeks, as he is trying to increase his workload in practice each day.
"It’s getting very close – it’s getting much stronger. I’m lifting well in the gym and it’s reacting well to the treatments," he said. "I’m feeling much, much better. It’s not there yet, but it’s certainly moving along very well and making improvements every day is definitely a positive."
Gudbranson, who appeared in 72 games with the Panthers as a rookie last season, was the club’s first round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.