Adding Craig Adams to the Harvard men's hockey team may be like adding the spark to gunpowder--light the match and watch the sparks fly.
Rebounding from a serious shoulder injury suffered during the middle of last year, Adams is prepared to captain a Crimson team that this season looks to be even better than its strong finish last year forebodes.
Adams sustained the injury over Christmas break last season during a game in Wisconsin. He had been skating along the right side of the rink when he was pushed into the boards with the door to the penalty box open. His head and shoulder crashed into the glass, and doctors later discovered that he had stretched a nerve in his shoulder.
It was initially projected that Adams would have to miss only a few weeks, and he eventually practiced with the team by the end of the season. However, he was unable to take contact and had to sit out the remainder of the season to let the nerve regenerate.
Prior to his injury, Adams had been playing the season of his life. In only 12 games, he had chalked up six goals and six assists. Drafted by the National Hockey League's Hartford Whalers in the ninth round of the 1996 draft, Adams had gained the reputation of being a tough, hard-nosed player who never gave up on the ice.
"[The injury] was disappointing," Adams says. "You wait for your big chance and when you think that it's finally come, then it's disappointing when it doesn't work out. It was pretty hard at the time, but there's nothing that I can really do about it now, so I'm just trying to learn from the experience."
Adams recuperated, and rather than dwelling on the seriousness of the injury, he instead used it as inspiration for the upcoming season.
"It was rough [sitting out]," the right winger says. "It was a very frustrating experience, but to take a positive outlook on it, I learned a lot. When you're always in the game, sometimes it's helpful to step back and see things that you didn't notice before. It helps you to see how you could improve."
Adams went through physical therapy and lifted weights throughout the offseason to rehabilitate his shoulder and fine-tune his skills. He has attempted this summer to increase his strength--a key to his aggressive style of play--as well as improve his accuracy and stick-handling.
"Craig's definitely become a lot stronger and bigger this season," says senior defenseman Ben Storey. "He's gotten to be more of a finesse player and fine-turned his game."
Thus far, Adams has been able to take contact, so the shoulder should not slow him in tomorrow's season opener against Brown. During preseason practices and scrimmages, he has proven to his coach and his teammates that he is in top form.
"Craig certainly looks completely recovered," says Harvard Coach Ronn Tomassoni. "We haven't seen him favoring [his shoulder] at all, and he's still playing with the same reckless abandon that he's always played with. Hopefully he'll have an injury-free season."
"I've been feeling good all fall, and when I'm out there, I don't even notice it," Adams says. "A lot of the summer was spent in rehab, but I tried to work on everything. I'm hopefully a little bit quicker and stronger."
Anxiety arose during the off-season that Adams' injury would force him to curtail his aggressiveness. Adams, however, believes that his game will still be just as physical.
"I was wondering how the injury would affect me, but I played some competitive hockey at the beginning of September, and before I knew it, I was pushing my shoulder right away and playing more physical than I ever had, and it didn't affect me at all," Adams says.