“What are the odds that I go through this again?”
That’s what Gannon Laroque thought, when he was recovering from right hip surgery last summer.
“I took detailed notes everyday of what I was doing,” he told San Jose Hockey Now. At least he had that to lean on when he had a second hip surgery, this time to his left side, in April.
Laroque, the San Jose Sharks’ fourth-round pick in 2021, played just four games in 2022-23 before that second surgery. It was a lost season for the 20-year-old defensemen, who entered the campaign set to captain the WHL’s Victoria Royals after putting up an impressive 10 goals and 52 points in 63 games the year before.
“It was a crazy moment,” he said of his second surgery. “I was feeling totally 100 percent, and all of a sudden, in the fourth game, something must’ve happened. There wasn’t an exact moment, so I can’t really detail it, but I was really, really in shock.”
So back to his notes, and his first hip surgery.
The recovery process for both was grueling. He was on crutches for about three weeks, and “after that, you’re not walking 100 percent,” he explained. “But, at least you’re able to do your main, daily activities.”
Later on, “you can start to do stuff slowly and get that atrophy out of the way.”
In total, it takes 12-15 weeks after surgery to resume skating. The last thing he wanted, after putting up a five points in four games, was to have to go through the entire process again.
Luckily, through both recoveries, he would have support from several sources.
“I had a mental performance coach who I talked with on a regular basis,” Laroque shared. “That was like huge for me. And my friends and family were the big people for me. And the organizations I’m part of were checking in on me every couple of weeks.”
The mental performance coach helped Laroque stay “strong mentally. Give me like some little cues to stay active and not trying to put too much pressure on myself to get to back too fast. Pushing it and rushing it can always lead to re-injury.”
With that caution in mind, a second hip surgery didn’t dull the competitor in Laroque.
“I was just setting a goal to try to beat myself,” he explained, comparing recoveries. “I actually did by a couple of weeks. I was pretty excited about that.”
Now, Laroque appears to be back on track, preparing for the 2023-24 campaign. While returning to the WHL for a full season could be appealing because he’d likely be the Victoria Royals No. 1 defenseman, as a 20-year-old, Laroque is eligible to play for the San Jose Barracuda this season.
“My goal is to be with the Barracuda,” Laroque shared. “I haven’t been told anything, I’m just going to come in here and try to make the team. Whatever happens, happens, but that’s my goal.”
Larqoue has acquitted himself well throughout Rookie Faceoff and the early part of training camp, taking on regular shifts and practices with no apparent limitations. He’s also going to play in the San Jose Sharks’ pre-season opener tonight.
“I feel like I can be that 200-foot defenseman,” Laroque said. “I try to model my game after a guy like K’Andre Miller on the Rangers. Big, physical, but can also get up ice and join the rush offensively. The last couple years, I’ve really been trying to improve my offensive game, as well just simplifying it. I can’t be too complicated out there, especially at the next levels.”
As part of development camp and now training camp, Laroque has been getting pointers from development coach Luca Sbisa. Previously, the late Bryan Marchment — who was vocal about the San Jose Sharks drafting Laroque in 2021 — had been an influential voice.
“Even just my first time meeting him at camp, just a really great guy, and always giving me pointers as well. The whole organization has shifted a little bit, [but] everybody has just been really good to me.”
Laroque has been through a lot, but he believes that he’s the better for it. For what it’s worth, Brad Marchand is an example of an NHL player who has flourished after double hip surgery.
“It was really good for me, mentally, to go through that,” Laroque concluded. “I learned a lot about myself too. Coming into camp, I’m ready to go.”
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