Fernando ready to roll

Robin Brownlee
September 09 2008 01:43PM

From where he was one year ago to where he is today is mind-boggling, if you think about.

Fernando Pisani was back he belongs this morning at Kinsmen Arenas in south Edmonton—lacing his skates, pulling on his equipment and getting ready for training camp with the Edmonton Oilers.

Skating with a dozen or so other Oilers who'll be ready to go when camp opens with medicals and fitness testing Sept. 19, Pisani looked nothing less than robust as he did drills and jostled for pucks with new teammate Erik Cole and big Zack Stortini.

Watching him, it was easy to forget that a year ago this week Pisani was laying in a hospital bed at the University of Alberta trying to overcome a bout of ulcerative colitis that stripped more than 30 pounds off his six-foot-one frame and left him so weak he couldn't walk a flight of stairs without resting.

Back then, in the worst days of the disease, just getting well enough to live a normal life as a husband and father was the goal. Playing hockey for the Oilers again was a distant consideration.

Skip ahead to today, to what I saw this morning, and there's no hint of Pisani's ordeal. He's bigger than ever—215 pounds compared to his old playing weight of 205 pounds—and his mind and body are ready for the rigours of another NHL season.

All the way back is Pisani.

Darkest Days

"It's night and day from where I was last year," said Pisani. "I'm pretty excited to get back on the ice. I'm looking forward to having a good start and just start the season off on the right note."

The vast majority of Oilers fans know Pisani's story, and that the bout of career-threatening ulcerative colitis not only kept him out of training camp, but out of the first 26 games of the season. His return against Colorado Oct. 23, made possible by intense drug therapy, came sooner than the most optimistic doctors thought it would.

Pisani's dogged determination to beat the disease was nothing less than inspiring, a battle that made him a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded for sportsmanship, perseverance and dedication to the game, after he scored 13-9-22.

If it's all the same, though, Pisani will happily leave the Masterton race to somebody else.

"You're not really ever clear of it, but it's under control," Pisani said of his disease and his continuing therapy. "I'm happy to be back feeling good. It's an excitement, really."

A year ago, Pisani weighed 170 pounds. His weight today, thanks to a stepped-up off-season regimen, represents a swing of 45 pounds.

It goes without saying that, while Pisani got into 56 games in 2007–08, he wasn't 100 per cent in many of those.

Looking ahead

Where Pisani, 31, fits in coach Craig MacTavish's forward mix now is anybody's guess, given the addition of Cole and the emergence of Sam Gagner, Robert Nilsson and Andrew Cogliano.

That'll play out at camp and in pre-season—something Pisani couldn't say a year ago—for the soft-spoken right-winger. He has the offensive touch to play some top-six minutes and the grit and defensive reliability to be an effective third-liner and penalty killer.

"Big difference," smiles Pisani about the contrast. "Big difference."

—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260 .

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 Mother Pucker Hockey
September 09 2008, 02:08PM
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I ran into Pissani on Saturday night and I have to say that by sheer looks he is ready to go. He looked jacked!

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#2 snipes67
September 09 2008, 02:32PM
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Good for him, it doesn't matter what you do for a living or how much you get paid if you don't have your health. Nice for the Oil to have a healthy Pisser!

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#3 1011011
September 09 2008, 03:39PM
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Pisani returning to form reminds me how the Oilers are much more healthy as a franchise than they were after they had the cancer that was CFP was removed.

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#4 Fiveandagame
September 09 2008, 03:43PM
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Goggles is going to be SOOO awesome for the Oil this year. 215lbs!!! Wow! Imagine him on a line with Moreau and Brodziak? That would be one hell of a great forecheck!

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#5 PaperDesigner
September 09 2008, 11:24PM
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I think Pisani is going to quietly notch a twenty goal season this year.

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#6 B.C.B.
September 10 2008, 08:49AM
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PD: I don't think he'll hit 20 goals, but I'd be VERY happy with 12-15 goals and a + stat (good god, we could really use a couple forwards that have their defensive work show up over 82 games). If I could get a double digit + stat and 15 goals, I'd say it was a career season (which would be on par to his 2003-2004 effort)

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#7 milli
September 10 2008, 11:31AM
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Awesome team guy, great news. He'll score, but also, he is so tough defensively. "cancer that was CFP was removed." haha, thats awesome.

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#8 Chris.
September 10 2008, 12:51PM
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I am a huge Pisani fan. Can't wait to see him in action for the first time since the finals at or near 100 percent. Good Luck Fernando!

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#9 Ed
September 10 2008, 03:32PM
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Good luck Fernando. You are hands down one of my favorite Oilers

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#10 footeball
September 10 2008, 11:19PM
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Pisani! Tell your friends! Cause this volcano is ready to explode. Shoot that laser beam, fernando Shoot!!!

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#11 JG
September 11 2008, 12:24AM
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fernando is da man

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#12 Brian Fellows
September 11 2008, 01:39PM
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Yes Fernando! Get it done!

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