A major injury is always a devastating blow for a pro athlete, but the Hartford Wolf Pack’s Micheal Haley has been blessed with a significant mitigating factor to his recent health woes.
The seventh-year pro winger was forced out of the Wolf Pack lineup November 23, by a sports hernia that required surgery to repair. Haley faced a five-week rehab after his November 27 surgery, but on the positive side, being unable to skate gave him more time to devote to his four-month-old son, Hudson, the first child for Haley and his wife Steph.
“He’s (Hudson) at the age where every day is different and he’s learning something,” a beaming Haley said Tuesday. “So that’s been great, just taking the time to enjoy family, and it’s a great time of year, too, for family. Just heal up and come back mentally and physically ready.”
Being a father, and having a little one totally dependent on you and your spouse, helps bring a whole new perspective to the existence of a pro athlete, according to Haley.
“You definitely let things go a little quicker than you used to,” he said. “You still want to be very professional, and obviously this is my life and I love hockey, but when you go home and you see your little boy smiling, or he learned something new, you’re definitely not focusing on the rink. So it’s a good way to mentally let go and refocus, and the next day when you wake up and come to the rink, you’re fresh and you didn’t dwell on things, and hopefully you’re coming in ready to work.”
Right now, work for Haley involves getting treatment from Wolf Pack medical trainer Damien Hess, and doing off-ice workouts with strength and conditioning coach Mark Cesari. Haley is a high-energy player on the ice, whose game is all about banging and crashing and getting opponents off their games, a mindset that might make enduring the monotony of an injury recovery even more difficult. Haley feels, however, that is not necessarily so.
“I think it is and it isn’t,” he said. “Right now I think we’re ahead of schedule as far as rehabbing goes, so I think it helps in some ways too. It can hurt you if you go too hard when you’re not supposed to, but right now it’s been going good that I’ve been pushing it, and we hope to continue the early recovery here. I’m excited to hopefully be pain-free and feel like my old self.”
Haley is the sort of old-school player who does not succumb easily to injury, and has a high pain threshold, but this particular problem is one that has been bothering him for an extended period of time, and it finally became too much to battle through.
“It’s been a while, and it’s definitely always in your head and it plays with you,” Haley said. “But it just got to the point where you couldn’t even fight through it any more, you weren’t good enough. I didn’t feel good enough and strong enough to even outplay it. I’m excited, I feel better already now than before I got the surgery, so it’s exciting, and I’m just looking forward to getting some more intensity and some harder rehab here.”
While he sweats out that rehab, Haley continues adjusting to life as a dad, which requires eliminating some of the staples of life as a childless hockey player.
“No more naps,” Haley chuckled, “but it’s pretty good. He sleeps really well at night, so that’s not an issue any more, and it’s been exciting. There’s always something to do, and he’s at the age now where he loves for us to take him out on walks, and we take him everywhere, to the mall, whatever, just to let him stare at things, and then it usually helps him sleep better at night. Pretty much we just try and find ways to kill time with him, but it’s been great so far.”
Besides his wife and son, Haley’s other favorite companion is the family’s cockapoo, Maddy. That fits right in with the typical image of a hockey tough guy—hard as nails on the ice, and, in many, if not most, cases, gentle as a teddy bear once the game is over, with a genuine fondness for youngsters and dogs.
“Everybody that I’ve played with that plays physical like me, they’re usually pretty low-key and have some good emotions outside (the rink), but I think it’s just passion,” Haley said. “We’re passionate people, passionate about hitting on the ice, and it can go the other way too. We go home and it’s family time, and I like it to be calm.”
Haley’s recovery from the surgery is ahead of schedule, which means he might be back in the lineup before the first of the year. Certainly, barring any setbacks, the 5-10, 204-pound Guelph, Ontario native will be on the cusp of returning when the Christmas holiday hits. That will make for a double shot of joy, what with it being Hudson’s first Christmas.
“He’s not old enough where he knows what’s going on, but I’m sure he’ll still get spoiled,” Haley laughed. “It’s exciting, everything’s first for him, it’ll be pretty fun.”
Four months might be a bit of a young age to find a pair of skates under the tree, but there is little doubt that young Hudson will be introduced to sheets of ice, and blades on his feet, before too long. Haley is eager to share that with his first-born, but hockey is only part of what he cannot wait to watch Hudson get a chance to experience.
“He’ll skate, he’s Canadian, he’s going to skate,” Haley said with a smile. “He’ll grow up to do whatever he wants to do. I’ll put him in every possible venue or activities you can put him in, and whatever he likes, that’s what he’ll go with. I’m definitely not going to force him to play hockey just because his dad did, but I’m sure that he will, my whole family does. But I’m excited for everything. Every day he’s doing something new right now, so every day I’m excited to leave the rink, and I’ll call my wife right when I get out, just to see if he’s done anything while I’ve been gone. So I don’t think there’s one thing in particular, I think I’m pretty excited about everything.”