By Lindsay Kramer
Stride by tenuous stride, Worcester forward Graham Mink, who played for Richmond in the ECHL as a rookie in 2001-02, has spent the past several months skating from fear to frustration and now, finally, to peace of mind.
The journey almost makes skating through opponents seem easy by comparison. These days, Mink is getting a lot of practice doing that.
Mink has torched the AHL since Jan. 1, with a total of 16 goals and 12 assists in 31 games. The run coincides with the calm of knowing that a sports hernia that tagged him since early last season is gone.
“There’s not that hesitation now,’’ said Mink, 27. “It started gradually, and it faded gradually. It’s not like you can wake up at one point and say, boom, I’m cured.’’
That was a painful mental lesson, one that rivaled the physical anguish. Mink started feeling discomfort in the area in November 2005, when he played with Hershey. He tried to rest, but it only got worse. A cortisone injection into his pelvis – and that’s exactly as gruesome as it sounds – was only a stopgap measure. In February 2006, he underwent surgery. Trouble was, he came back from it after only six weeks, which was maybe a month too early. He battled it during the playoffs, the hurt eased by Hershey’s run to the Calder Cup. Mink gutted that out for 21 points in 21 games.
“It was one of those things where you have to be dead to miss it,’’ Mink said. “By June, it was pretty sore. I’m glad we didn’t have another round.’’
Mink hoped a summer off would finally end his ordeal, but it only teased him again. A week into training camp with San Jose, the pain started biting. Turns out he was tearing his scar tissue.
“For awhile, I was pretty scared I was going to always have to deal with it,’’ Mink said. “The hardest thing was that no one could tell me what was really wrong, directly.’’