It was a little more than a year ago that Jed Ortmeyer was wondering not only about his future in the NHL, but also about his future … period.
That’s what happens when one starts coughing up blood, as Ortmeyer did last August following a pre-training camp workout with the New York Rangers.
The diagnosis was a pulmonary embolism, a potentially life-threatening blood clot in his lung. It was actually the second run-in with a blood clot for the Omaha, Neb., native who’d experienced one six years earlier after knee surgery in college.
“The first month or so after the diagnosis, it really kind of hit home that it might be my last time playing hockey,” said Ortmeyer, who signed with the Nashville Predators in the offseason.
Ortmeyer spent several weeks getting poked and prodded by specialists, who prescribed blood-thinners and prohibited Ortmeyer from contact sports. Doctors did determine Ortmeyer could keep himself in condition.
Ortmeyer took full advantage, skating for an hour each morning before his teammates hit the ice. When they practiced, he shifted to the weight room for another hour. On game days, he’d be at the rink, either in the weight room or pedaling furiously on the stationary bicycle.
“I was working out two to three hours a day every day and that helped me — my skating, everything,” Ortmeyer said. “It made me just that much better of a player. I was able to take advantage of that time.”
Ortmeyer, 29, spent the first half of the 2006-07 season watching and waiting for his chance. Doctors finally gave him the go-ahead to return to action in a Jan. 2 game.
“It was a real déjà vu kind of thing because we were playing in New Jersey, the same place I’d played my first NHL game,” Ortmeyer said. “Sitting at my locker, I kind of got the nerves and butterflies that I’d gotten for my first game. It was like a new career for me again.”
It wasn’t long before he was seeing regular shifts and playing on the top penalty-killing unit. In other words, it wasn’t long before he was playing Ortmeyer-style hockey, the gritty kind that in 2005-06 produced the third-most hits on the Rangers (125) and the seventh-most blocked shots (78) among all NHL forwards.
Jed Ortmeyer #41
“He’s an in-your-face type of hard-working player,” Predators General Manager David Poile said. “Usually something happens when he’s on the ice, and it’s usually some form of contact or hit, something like that. It’s usually not a vanilla shift.”
That’s why the Predators targeted Ortmeyer when he became an unrestricted free agent.
“On the first day of free agency, I got calls from all the coaches and management,” Ortmeyer said.
“They were excited about selling me on the program and coming here and being part of their family. Their excitement really made me feel like I was wanted and made it an easy decision.”
Ortmeyer will continue to have his health monitored this season in regard to the blood-clot situation. On long flights, for instance, he might use blood thinners to reduce the risk of blood clots that can come at high altitude.
But considering all that he’s been through, the future looks good.
“Everything’s great,” Ortmeyer said. “I had tests taken after the season, and everything checked out. I’ll take some precautions when we travel, but hopefully it won’t be an issue again.”
NICK CATONA FORWARD
Hometown: Swarthmore, Pa.
Nickname: “Nick the Quick” Career Higlights:
Nick, who plays for the Philadelphia Little Flyers Tier 1 squad, recently blew away the competition in the fastest skater event during a skills competition at the ’97 Rochester Preseason Invitational tournament. Nick tore around the course in a time of 17.03 seconds.