Detroit Red Wings’ Jakub Vrana on last 2 months: ‘Some things are bigger than hockey’

Detroit Free Press

Jakub Vrana strode up to his locker stall and did what he has done so many times before: take off his skates and his gear.

It was special, though, because Friday marked the first time Vrana was back with the Detroit Red Wings after a two-month stay in the NHL and NHL Players Association players assistance program.

“It is really positive and a lot of energy to see the guys, just be here,” Vrana said. “I miss them, you know? I miss them. I am so happy to be back.”

The program is designed to assist players dealing with a range of issues relating to anything from mental health to substance abuse. Vrana was asked what he was comfortable sharing about the experience.

“I mean, for me, I just don’t feel like sharing anything, that’s just my personal reasons,” he said. “The policy of the PA program and the administrators, it is set and I can’t share everything and I don’t feel like doing it, either.”

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Vrana was placed in the program Oct. 19.

“There are bigger things than hockey in life and you have to get it in order,” he said. “You have to deal with some things that are bigger than hockey. It’s important to make that decision. (Before) it is too late, you have to make some decisions that are important in your life.”

Vrana last played Oct. 15. He said he has been working out and has skated a bit on his own, but basically he is coming in cold and faces joining the lineup near the midseason point.

“It was just great to have him back, to get him back in the room with the guys,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “He’s able to practice with us. The next step is when we think he can be game ready. He has been out for two months, it was his first skate. We want to be really patient. We want to put him in the best position to be successful when he is game ready. When is that going to be — I don’t know.”

Whenever he does return, he will bring much-needed goals. He scored in the second game of the season, one o2 22 goals he has in 39 games in a Wings uniform. He has a knack for getting into scoring positions, and only needs one shot to change a game.

Vrana, 26, has joined the Wings midseason before. He arrived at the 2021 trade deadline as part of the package return on the Anthony Mantha deal. Last season, Vrana missed the first 56 games recovering from shoulder surgery.

Two years ago, of course, he came in already in game shape, and last season he was around the team while rehabilitating. This time, it’s different.

“I have been skating a little bit, but this was the first time with the fellas on the ice,” Vrana said. “I’ve been trying to stay in shape as much as I could and I felt really good on the ice. Now it’s just a matter of time. That is not my decision, I just follow orders and do the best I can every day to stay in shape and be able to help the team.

“Just to be back, to see the guys, it is really positive. I’m just happy to be back here.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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