Slowly but surely, Union’s Adams on comeback trail

Junior forward blew out his knee during NHL development camp this summer
Union's Jack Adams fires a shot against Army last season.
Union's Jack Adams fires a shot against Army last season.

Categories: Sports

All work and no play has not made Jack a dull boy.

On the contrary, Jack Adams has put his convalescence from hockey to good use. The 6-foot-6 junior forward from Boxford, Massachusetts, doesn’t know exactly when he’ll be able to skate again, much less when he’ll be sufficiently recovered enough from his ruined knee to rejoin the Union College men’s hockey team.

But he does know this: when he does come back, he will have given himself not only a good chance to regain his form from last season, but a good chance to be even better.

While participating in the Detroit Red Wings’ NHL Prospects Development Camp, Adams suffered a full tear of his anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament on June 29, the final day of the camp.

He had surgery to repair his knee eight weeks ago and has been home rehabbing it while the Dutchmen prepare for their season opener on Oct. 5 at home against Boston University.

Adams said he expects to get back on skates in a month and a half or two months, but in the meantime he has put on 15 pounds of muscle, has been breaking down his game during video review of last season and has maintained a positive attitude and approach throughout what he calls “the worst mentally challenging thing in sports, to be injured.”

“One of my mentors, [former Union star] Daniel Carr, told me four summers ago that feeling sorry for yourself gets you nowhere,” Adams said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “He’s been constantly harping on that, as have my parents. Use that time to develop.

“Physically, right now, I feel unbelievable. I’m up to 225, and moving great, I’ve done the most weight work I’ve ever done and have been able to put on muscle, and I think once I get skating and moving, I’ll be that much better.”

With the early departure to the pro ranks of classmate Liam Morgan, Adams will be the second-leading scorer among returning players on this year’s team, which lost nine seniors to graduation.

A sixth-round pick by the Red Wings in 2017, Adams bumped his scoring from four goals and nine assists as a freshman to 10 and 12 last season.

He was hurt in a knee-on-knee collision at development camp while on the forecheck, feeling “a little pop” that he shrugged off while continuing to play and getting off a shot during a 2-on-1 break.

“I turned, and as soon as I did that, something felt wrong,” he said. “I couldn’t put any weight on my knee, and I couldn’t stand up. I went back to the bench, and everyone was kind of looking at me. I went in the hallway and fell. I knew something was wrong. Two guys from the training staff took me to the room, I got undressed and in two minutes, it was swollen like a balloon.”

Adams was diagnosed with a full tear of both the ACL and MCL, the first significant injury of his career.

“It was a really tough dagger to hear that, man,” he said. “I had a really good camp, I was coming along strong and felt the best I ever had physically.

“And I was just so excited the way our team [at Union] had bonded last spring and the culture we established, all the conversations I was having with the coaches, and felt like I had a big role coming back. To miss a big chunk of the first part of the season sucks, but I just have to keep going every day to get back.”

That means two hours of physical therapy as soon as he gets up in the morning, then a drive to downtown Boston for 3 to 5 hours of a full-body massage and workout, six days a week, along with maintaining his academic progress and working on his hands and shot in the family garage.

“I give myself Saturdays off to watch college football and hang out with the fam,” he said. “That’s my one day a week to relax. It’s intense.

“I’m excited to get back at some point, but I’m just going day by day and feeling a little bit better every day.”

Adams has benefited from a wide range of support, especially from New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who missed the entire 2017 NFL season with a torn right ACL suffered in a preseason game.

The same surgeon performed the operation on both of their knees, and Adams is using the same physical therapist and massage/workout program Edelman did.

He has also heard from ESPN’s John Buccigross and many of the Boston Bruins, including defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who had the same injury, and took an opportunity to work out with Alex Rodriguez and Chris Mullin at the Equinox Sports Club in Boston, soaking up their experiences with injuries.

“The amount of support was humbling,” Adams said. “It’s been insane. But I think I’ve actually grown a ton as a person, because it’s probably the worst mentally challenging thing in sports, to be injured.”

Adams surprised his Union teammates last week by showing up on campus for a 6 a.m. workout and plans to be in Schenectady the second weekend in October, when the Dutchmen play host to Northeastern.

If he feels confident that his knee can handle the long drive, he’d also like to be at Union’s first road game, at West Point, on Sunday, Oct. 6.

On a deeply emotional 2018-19 season opener for Adams, the Army program embraced him — literally — after a 4-1 Union win at Messa Rink, when he had the game-winning goal and an assist while mourning the loss of his brother, Mark “Roo” Adams Jr., who had died three weeks before the Army game.

The Adams family had been closely connected to the program for 15 years through another family in eastern Massachusetts that they’re friendly with, whose son, former Army player Derek Hines, was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2005.

Adams looks forward to the day, probably sometime in November, when he can get back on skates.

“Paul Vincent, my skating coach, told me I have two choices: sulk and ice it all day, or use this time to develop,” Adams said. “It’s more about staying mentally fresh and active and not being bored, because injuries are a very lonely thing. I didn’t really understand that until I experienced this. You’re by yourself, literally, all day. You’re part of the team, but you’re really not.

“I don’t want to be a distraction. They’ve got to get ready for BU next week. They don’t need me hobbling around. And I’m their biggest fan. I was up last weekend to see all the guys, and it was awesome. But they have a lot to take care of, as do I.”

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.

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