RALEIGH — Eric Staal was chosen to model the Carolina Hurricanes’ newly designed uniform Tuesday at PNC Arena, slipping into a red sweater.
Of bigger concern to the Canes is how healthy Staal when it’s time to slip on one and play.
Staal walked with a slight limp as he mounted the stage for the unveiling, a visible reminder of the serious knee injury the Canes’ captain suffered last month in the IIHF World Championships. No surgery was needed, and Staal said Tuesday there was “no question” he would be totally healthy when preseason training camp begins in September.
Staal suffered a third-degree sprain of the right medial collateral ligament (MCL) last month while playing for Canada in Stockholm, Sweden. He took a knee-on-knee hit from Alex Edler of Sweden, who later was suspended for what the IIHF called a reckless hit.
Staal said Tuesday it was not a clean hit by Edler, who plays for the Vancouver Canucks. He’s also thankful there wasn’t any major structural damage.
“I guess the way I was squirming around was a good thing,” he said of the play. “If I wasn’t they say it probably would have been a full-blown ACL and the rest of it. It could have been a lot worse.”
Staal has been able to ride a stationary bike but said it would be late July or early August before he began skating.
“It’s coming along – a slower process than I thought and hoped,” he said.
Staal said the injury hasn’t made him reconsider competing internationally. He said he’d jump at the chance to play for Team Canada in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia and looked to defend the gold medal won in 2010.
Nor does Staal regret playing in this year’s World Championships, joining brother, Jordan, on the Canadian team.
“I wanted to compete in games that have a lot of meaning,” he said. “I wanted to play.”
Canes general manager Jim Rutherford said Tuesday his preference is that his players not compete in such events as the Worlds. But he noted, “Who am I to tell somebody not to play for their country?”
Of the Edler hit, Staal said, “To be honest, I’m unsure of what he was trying to do. I wouldn’t classify it as a clean hit. I don’t know what his intentions were. In the replay, it wasn’t a smart hit. My knee was extended and he runs right into it.
“No, I don’t think it’s clean hit. I don’t know if he intentionally meant it as a dirty hit, but it looks as though that’s what it is. Whether his intentions were to injure me on the play, obviously no one likes to think anyone tries to purposely tries to do that. But it was not a clean hit, no.”
As for the new uniforms unveiled Tuesday, Staal said they had a sharper, cleaner look to them. He joked that he did a “runway walk” for his teammates late in the season and that they approved of the unis.
“I’m ready to move on,” he said of the change. “Obviously winning a Stanley Cup in the old jersey is something you’ll never forget. But it’s been a while since that point, so I’m looking forward to being able to do that again and hopefully in this new jersey.”
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