Six months ago, Cory Conacher was sitting in Belleville wondering if his career was over.
Two months ago, he was arriving in Charlotte with a newly clean bill of health, ready to get back up to speed and restart his season.
Today, he’s thriving at the end of his long road to recovery.
“I feel the best I’ve felt in probably five years,” said Conacher.
The veteran has told the story of his journey over the past year - in which bladder and kidney issues derailed his PTO stint with the Senators and put him through a gauntlet of procedures that put his hockey career in jeopardy.
“There was obviously a point this summer and even when I was with Belleville where I didn’t know whether I would be playing still,” said Conacher. “Fortunately I went to the doctor finally and they figured out what the issue was - it took four or five surgeries to figure it out, but like I said this is the best I’ve felt in five years.”
With nearly 600 pro games under his belt and plenty of accolades at the AHL level, Conacher was a positive boost down the stretch, both on the ice - he recorded nine points in 15 regular season game - and off it - lending his wealth of big-game experience to the younger contingent in the room.
“I’m in a position in my life where I’m a little older,” said Conacher. “I think I might have been one of the oldest guys on the team. I know my role and a part of it is just helping these younger guys get comfortable with the league and the speed of the game, becoming more of a pro.”
Looking ahead, that leadership aspect - combined with the on-ice production - seems poised to be a big asset for the 33-year-old.
“That’s what I’m looking to do these next few years too,” said Conacher. “I can still play. I just had a good talk with the coaching staff and I told them, this is a good group of guys, it’s a good group of young guys that have a pretty bright future. I’d love to be a part of that and try to help them along the way.”
The last year has been a tumultuous one for Conacher, but as he sits at the end of year 12, the view forward is a positive one.
“I appreciate Charlotte and the organization for giving me the opportunity to play and feel that way again,” he said. “I’d love to be back here. I think I’ve got two or three more years left in me, it’d be nice to be a part of this organization in the future.”