Hockey star shocks Avalanche organization by having surgery on left foot

Forsberg's comeback ends quickly

Posted: Friday, January 11, 2002

DENVER -- Peter Forsberg had surgery on his left foot Thursday and will miss the Olympics and the rest of the NHL regular season, shocking Colorado Avalanche teammates and coaches who expected him to rejoin the team within days.

Forsberg will be out for at least four months after the operation to stabilize tendons on the outside of his left ankle. Team doctors said the sheath around the tendons ruptured.

''I was stunned,'' Avalanche general manager Pierre Lacroix said during a news conference Thursday night. ''It was a real shocker for everyone involved in the discussions this morning. Peter's conditioning was good. He was really fired up and really excited about coming back.''

Lacroix said he had expected Forsberg to be back in the lineup within 10 to 15 days.

''We were all blindsided by this totally,'' said Don Baizley, Forsberg's agent. ''Peter was dumbfounded to find this out.''

Forsberg, who took an unexpected leave of absence from the team on Sept. 15 because of mounting injuries, arrived in Denver this week from his home in Sweden.

During a physical examination Wednesday, he complained of discomfort in his left foot. Avalanche medical director Andrew Parker described it as a ''popping sensation,'' which Forsberg had been experiencing for about a month.

Doctors ordered an MRI exam that revealed the problem with the tendons, and the one-hour surgery took place late Thursday afternoon. Parker said Forsberg, 28, was expected to make a full recovery.

''We're not holding out any strong hopes that he's back for this year,'' he said. ''Our real goal in this whole process is not to get Peter as good as we can for the playoffs this year but to do what we can to maintain his ability to play over the next several years.''

Parker said team doctors had no hint of the tendon problem until Wednesday's exam. The six-time All-Star had surgery to correct a bursitis problem in both ankles in July and additional surgery for the same problem in his left ankle in Sweden in September.

''The bursal problem was getting much better,'' Parker said. ''Although this is in the same area, it's really a new and unrelated problem.''

Baizley said Forsberg was ''very much of a mind that he's coming back this year,'' perhaps for the playoffs. ''He wanted the surgery right away because he wanted the clock to tick,'' Baizley said.

The news came as the Avalanche prepared for an important game at division-leading Edmonton on Saturday.

The defending Stanley Cup champions were a point behind the Oilers in the Northwest Division, and teammates eagerly anticipated Forsberg's return.

''It's almost like Christmas, and you're going to get a great big Christmas gift,'' defenseman Todd Gill had said before Thursday's announcement.

Forsberg's father, Kent, said his son's goal all along had been to come back to the Avalanche and play in the Olympics. Peter Forsberg had told the Swedish newspaper Sportbladet he was ready to return.

''I feel like I'm ready to roll,'' he said. ''Everything is fine, so there should be no problems to start playing. I had some problems with one ankle earlier, but it feels better now. If I get an OK (from doctors), I'll work out for a week and then I'm ready to play.''

Forsberg is in the final year of a three-year contract that would have paid him $11 million this season.

He was not being paid during his sabbatical, and Lacroix and Baizley said they haven't discussed whether he would be paid now.



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