For Cam Hebig, Saskatoon Blades training camp is his chance to prove himself, again.
Already established as one of the top players in the WHL, Saskatoon’s star centre is trying to find his form after missing the entire 2016-17 season due to injury.
“I always knew I would be back,” Hebig said, A five-foot-ten, 185 pound Saskatoon native who scored 69 points in 59 games during the 2015-16 campaign. He also earned an invite to Pittsburgh Penguins camp.
“I wanted to be back on this ice and everything was about working towards that.”
Hebig’s journey from the first line to the bleachers is still a puzzling one today. He struggled with the effects of an injury in training camp a season ago, while doctors struggled to pinpoint what was wrong.
“It was hard to get a clear diagnosis,” he said. “Just weird symptoms and a lot of weird stuff going on.”
But now Hebig says he is back and in the best shape of his life. Not being able to skate every day meant more time in the gym.
There were even some hopes of a return late in the 2017 season, as Hebig was cleared to start skating and the Blades found themselves in a tight playoff race.
After talking it over with the team, Hebig made the tough choice to delay the comeback until he truly felt 100 percent.
“I think I made the right choice and came out of it stronger now,” he said. “Taking that year and getting fully healthy was what I had to do, but I’m glad it’s behind me.”
Hebig’s first chance at a return to full WHL action comes Sept. 22, when the Blades host Swift Current. By then, one year, six months and three days will have passed since his last game, the 2016 season finale.
Watching the Blades intrasquad games on Sunday and Monday, It would have been tough to believe that one of the best players on the ice was returning from that kind of layoff. Hebig’s greatest weapon, his speed, was evident, as he carved through his prospective teammates, adding a couple goals.
“He looks like the old Cam,” head coach Dean Brockman said. “(he was) creating things, always moving and being in good spots, he looked really good.”
Hebig and Brockman both point out the real tests of game shape is still to come. The Blades face the Regina Pats in their first exhibition game on Thursday.
“I feel good,” Hebig said. “It’s going to take some time but all I want right now is to feel like I’m getting better every day.”