By Mike Griffith
Californian Staff Writer
The Bakersfield Californian
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – When Scott Borders skated behind the net and fell to the ice in agony on May 6, 2006 at Save Mart Center in Fresno it was a crippling blow for the Bakersfield Condors.
Game 7 of the Pacific Division Finals between the Condors and Falcons was tied at 1, the Falcons were on the power play and Borders was sprawled on the ice withering in pain — his right femur broken in two places.
The Falcons scored the go-ahead goal seconds after Borders was wheeled from the arena on a stretcher and went on to a 4-2 victory, ending Bakersfield’s season with Borders in a Fresno hospital awaiting surgery.
“It was a big blow for us, a factor that put some doubt in our bench,” Condors coach Marty Raymond said. “He had been playing some great hockey and (the injury) wasn’t even from the other team, it was just the ice. It’s nothing you can explain or rationalize.”
For Borders, who finally returned to action on Feb. 23 — 51 games into a 72- game season, the memory of that night in Fresno remains vivid.
“I was just going back on the penalty kill and wanted to go around the net and rim the puck,” he said. “I caught a rut that I couldn’t get out of. It (held) my left foot and kept me going straight while my body and right leg were trying to go around the net. My right leg bent at the knee, my knee hit the boards dead on and fractured the femur in two places — at the top and midway down.
“It was the worst pain I ever felt, for sure. It was excruciating. I was hoping I would pass out or something but I was awake the whole time.”
The injury meant an initial surgery in Fresno, months of rehab, an additional surgery and more rehab before Borders was deemed fit to play.
“They put in two rods and two screws from my hip to my knee,” Borders said. “I was on crutches eight weeks and a cane for 8-10 more weeks.”
By early October Borders was back on the ice (gingerly) but by mid-December his progress had come to a standstill.
“The screw in my knee was binding and that didn’t feel good,” Borders said. “They took the screw out, scoped out all the scar tissue and some damaged cartilage and cleaned the knee up on Dec. 22. After that it was another eight weeks of rehab.”
Then came showtime.
“It wasn’t too bad,” Borders said of his first two nights of play. “It was limited duty, every third shift I’d go out and play with Hoffy (Mike Hofstrand) and Liebs (Josh Liebenow, my old linemates. It was good. I felt a lot better than I thought I would.”
Raymond said there was never a question of waiting for Borders to get back into the lineup. He’s been on the roster (injured reserve) since the season started.
“In this business, if guys do well for you, you need to have a bit of loyalty,” Raymond said. “If you don’t take care of guys it’s difficult. We’ve done a really good job of taking care of guys, I think. It’s going to come back to you. When you are loyal a lot of things come back to you. At end of the day there are a lot more benefits than negative.”
Raymond said that while Borders is still several games away from being in true game shape, he brings another dimension to the team.
“He brings some stability,” Raymond said. “We have a lot of guys that are offensive, take some chances and are fancy. Scotty is a guy we can put on the third line to neutralize the best line on the other team. He brings a lot defensively to the penalty kill and makes smart plays.”
And the 6-foot-2, 204-pound winger also likes to throw his weight around.
“He’s going to finish his checks and has some toughness,” Raymond said. “He’s not going to fight but he will finish checks out there, be a force and maybe guys will stop running some of our guys because they know Borders will do the same thing.”
And although Borders would have preferred to have been healthy in October and not have a rod in his leg (which will require a year off when removed), he says the timing of his return should be a plus for the team as he will not be weary from a full season of play.
“I should just be hitting my stride when the playoffs come around,” he said. “I’ve got no excuses. I just have to go out and get the job done.”