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Sheldon Souray says the Oilers believed he was milking a health problem that landed him in the ICU

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Photo credit:Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Woz
By Woz
10 months ago
Sheldon Souray’s time with the Edmonton Oilers is one that the rugged defenceman would like to forget.
Much has been said about his displeasure with the organization and how things were handled in that era of Oilers hockey. But recently, Souray spoke at length about how it all transpired on the Dropping the Gloves Podcast with former NHLer John Scott about his experience in Edmonton.
One of the juicier stories from the podcast was about when Souray broke his hand in January of 2010 leading him to spending time in the ICU and potentially having his hand amputated. What makes it juicy is that the Oilers’ management and ownership believed he was milking the injury.
Originally, Souray wanted his hand looked at by someone in Los Angeles where he had a place and the Oilers denied that idea.
“I’m living in LA, Olympic break is coming up, so I say, ‘hey I wanna go back to LA and have someone who’s done this surgery a million times.’ They say ‘no, you’re doing it in Edmonton.’ And at that time the CBA hadn’t changed where we had a right to a second opinion, it was like what the team says is what you do, you’re under contract.”
Souray wound up receiving pins inside his hand, however, he sees a doctor in L.A. soon after and mentions that they didn’t put a certain cap on the pins. The doctor in L.A. ends up adding the caps, but before Souray can play again, he needs to meet with a doctor in Edmonton.
“The day before I’m flying back to Edmonton, I’m in the shower and I look down at my hand and these pins are sticking out two inches from my skin like they’re sticking out, so I’m like that’s weird so I just push it back in like a hot knife through butter.”
Over the next few days, his health takes a turn for the worst. He starts feeling sick while travelling and his elbow swells before his return to Edmonton. Initially, he thinks the illness is from something that he ate.
The night he’s back in Edmonton he gets a massage and things continue to decline. A few minutes into his massage, he can’t stop sweating. Later in the evening, he calls the Oilers’ doctor.
“That night I take a blanket and I put it over this heater and I’m shivering and I called the doctor and said, ‘hey I’m really sick.’ He said ‘well can you drive yourself to the hospital?’ I said, ‘Yeah I think so.’ So I call my dad and he lives 45 minutes out of town, he comes and gets me, I go to this clinic, the doctor meets me there.”
This is where Souray learns he has a staph infection.
“An ambulance now takes me to the U of A hospital, now I’m in the ICU for four days, I got a bone and blood infection and they’re talking about amputating my hand, they have to re-cut my hand open…
“I’m on all sorts of anti-biotics that they give cancer patients, dude it was bad.”
His hand was the least of his worries as his heart was the major concern while he was in the ICU. During this time the Oilers were in the middle of a road trip and were just learning about Souray’s condition.
“I said to the nurse one day, ‘What are they gonna do? Cut my hand off?’ and she goes ‘Oh honey we’re not even worried about that, we’re worried about this getting to your heart’ and that moment I put my head back on my pillow and was like damn, this is serious.”
At this moment the Oilers’ strength coach is with Souray and he tells him what the coaches and management think about his condition.
“I said ‘have you told the coaches or management?’ He said ‘Yeah but they think you’re milking an injury because you don’t want to play for the Oilers’ again.’ I said okay, so I picked up the phone. Now you gotta understand I’m on all these painkillers, I’m on these anti-biotics. I’m sitting in a hospital and I left Kevin Lowe and Daryl Katz a voicemail, and I wasn’t happy.”
For 14 weeks after that, Souray had to carry around a fanny pack with a pump filled with antibiotics and couldn’t get his hand wet even in the shower.
Then the year-end meetings with management come around.
“In my year-end interview, I tried to fight Steve Tambellini. We had a tough one. In my year-end interview, I kinda say, ‘Hey, it’s probably best for me to move on but we’ll talk about that this summer. Headline the next day ‘Souray demands trade’ whatever.”
From there Souray had a great summer of training and wanted to be a good soldier with the hope of being traded. His destiny at that point was in the hands of the Oilers, who prior to the 2010-11 season didn’t even invite him to training camp and Kevin Lowe told him he needed to publicly apologize and talk to Daryl Katz, which is refused to do.
Eventually, the Oilers would manage to move Souray to the Hershey Bears in the AHL. He felt that move was petty from the organization and he had the feeling that they tried painting him as a ‘spoiled brat’ and they viewed him as a poor influence on the younger stars with the Oilers in those years.
He was also very vocal on Edmonton’s harsh winter climate and feelings towards Rexall Place saying how it was the worst arena in the league.
Souray: “So as I’m hurt that first year, we’re playing in that old Northlands Coliseum, Rexall you played there (John Scott).”
Scott: “It’s a dump.”
Souray: “It was a dump, it was the worst place in the league. I had conversations with Kevin about the standard in Montreal. The standard is good as anywhere in the NHL, maybe the best.”
He mentions that he wasn’t invited to the final home game at Northlands Coliseum in 2016 where the majority of the Oilers’ alumni were including Chris Pronger.
Lastly, he did add a positive note towards the organization. He hosted Ken Holland and co to a round of golf when the team was in Vegas and noticed how they oozed professionalism.
“Kenny Holland is right up there with Lou Lamoriello, I think the way he does things and the respect he has league-wide. He (Holland) restored a lot of faith back in the Oilers and the way he talked to me. He wasn’t there for any of it but at least I had a better feeling that the Oilers are in good hands, they’ve got an owner who’s an idiot but they have good people in place”.
Sheldon Souray goes into greater detail about his years with the Oilers at the 35:40 mark on the Dropping the Gloves podcast.

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