Coward excited to be back with Rebels after hip surgeries

Rob Wallator

Chase Coward is living in the moment, unsure of what his long term future holds but happy to be back with the Red Deer Rebels.

Coward returned to the Rebels a few days after fellow netminder Rhett Stoesser suffered a season-ending injury, and after many practice sessions was given the starting assignment Wednesday in a 2-1 win over the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes.

It’s been a long road back for Coward, who was diagnosed with a congenital hip defect while attending the Buffalo Sabres spring camp last year.

The Swift Current product underwent physical testing at the camp and when his condition didn’t meet the team’s standards he was sent home.

“We had physicals in the morning and I had no internal rotation, it was pretty stiff,” Coward said Thursday. “The imaging came back pretty bad so they said they wanted to keep me off the ice.”

Coward, who had a strong 2021-22 rookie season with the Rebels as an 18-year-old, posting a 2.51 goals-against average and .906 save percentage with two shutouts in 35 games, was also invited to the Canadian national team summer camp last year but was unable to attend due to his condition taking a turn for the worse.

When August rolled around, the six-foot-two stopper decided he wouldn’t attend the Rebels training camp because of his health dilemma.

“It was a tough decision I had to make. I was kind of unsure where everything was going to,” he said. “I didn’t have anything lined up for surgeries. I was struggling to walk and was in a lot of pain. I thought I’d just take the time.”

Coward eventually underwent two surgeries — on his left hip in October and his right hip on December 29.

“I was supposed to be on crutches for six weeks (following the surgeries) but when I came out the doctor said just walk at your own pace, use comfort for your guide,” he said. “It normally takes three months for athletes to come back from one of these and I was told it might take a little longer because I’m a goalie.”

All along, Coward kept in touch with the team, including Rebels GM Brent Sutter and associate GM Shaun Sutter, and head coach Steve Konowalchuk.

cowie 2

When both surgeries were deemed successful and his recuperation following the second operation was basically complete, Coward skated with Rebels goaltender coach/scout Ian Gordon in Edmonton after being cleared by his surgeon and the Rebels team doctor.

And then . . . 

“I was grateful enough to get the call back here and I’ve just been rolling with it ever since,” he said.

Coward’s surgeries dealt with tears of the fasciae latae muscles. He still has a hip issue that will likely have to be addressed down the road — a dysplasia, the medical term for a hip socket that doesn’t fully cover the ball of the upper thighbone, and can eventually cause dislocations.

During his time away from the game, Coward contacted goaltenders Bryan Thompson of the Hurricanes and Adam Evanoff, formerly of the Victoria Royals —  both friends of his — for advice on how to deal with his situation.

“I had those guys to support me throughout. I reached out to them and asked them what they went through. It was a big help.”

Coward is fully aware that another surgery could be just a few years away.

“I’m hoping these fixed hips will last me a few more years,” he said. “There’s been a few NHL guys who have had this done and they’ve returned. Hopefully I can play a couple more years before I have to go back again.”

For now though, Coward, who turned 20 in January, will relish his return with the Rebels. It started on a positive note with Wednesday’s 20-save outing and victory.

“In the fall I was pretty unsure of what was going to happen but now that I’m back I’m just trying to pick up where I left off last year in playoffs,” he said, looking back on his eight-game post-season run in which he registered a .224 GAA and .925 save percentage.

“Last night I just felt like I was able to play my game,” he said. “There were no issues at all. I was pretty confident and happy with the results.”

The Rebels return to action Friday when the Calgary Hitmen visit the Peavey Mart Centrium. The teams meet again Saturday afternoon in Calgary.

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