It’s been three months since Ben Bowns’s opportunity at bet-at-home ICE League side Graz 99ers was halted through a serious knee injury. While he’s still some way off a full return, he can see the road back clearly.
His team posted a short video of the GB international back between the pipes as his rehab continued, which fuelled great interest from British fans keeping an eye on his progress in his Austrian adventure.
Bowns revealed there is a point in time he’s aiming for to be back in action, but remained tight-lipped over when that would be.
“I’m still a good bit off coming back to play, but the footage that went out was part of 20 minutes or so that I did,” Bowns said. “I’ve not done a full practice so I need to be fully cleared by the doctor before I can join that.
“I’ve also got another MRI scan to come to check and make sure everything is going as planned. It’s a day by day thing really and it started by going out in no kit, then gradually adding more and more before you try moving and dropping for shots.
“We’re still a little while off. I’ve got a date and a timeframe in mind for when I would like to come back, but I’m keeping it to myself. I don’t want to put myself under any extra pressure. With the position, I need the MCL to be at full strength. One wrong move could put me back a bit.
— Graz99ers (@graz99ers) December 28, 2020
“It was nice to be back on the ice and feeling it under my feet. It’s certainly good to be back rather than being a little loner.”
Bowns joined Graz in the summer from Cardiff Devils, but after only three competitive appearances, he picked up the serious knee injury in a 2-1 loss to Dornbirner and has worked to come back ever since.
He hasn’t let his misfortune in a foreign land put him off and like the sort of character fans know he is, he’s seen it as a challenge to tackle and get over.
As far as the injury is concerned, it wasn’t as bad as first feared, but if it needed surgery to repair any damage, the outlook for the rest of the season would have been a lot worse.
“I suppose it has been a little unusual being here, but we have our home comforts and my wife has a background in sports rehab so she’s made things a lot easier for me,” Bowns added. “I can talk to her and she treats me as well as the medical team at the rink.
“I’ve been talking to people like Danny Mawer in Sheffield and Jade Parsons in Cardiff, who’s treated knee injuries in the past. It’s been kind of weird, being here, but you just have to get on with it.
“You can deal with it in two ways. You crack on and work hard to get back and hopefully come back sooner than expected or you can sit and sulk, do nothing about it and maybe be out longer.
“It was my MCL (medial collateral ligament) and ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) that were hurt. Thankfully, it wasn’t not as bad as first feared and I had to wait eight weeks before I knew if they would operate on it.
“Luckily the MCL had about healed while the muscles around the ACL had shown enough there was enough strength in the muscles around the knee so I didn’t need it.
“If I had the surgery, it would have been game over for me as far as the season was concerned, but I would have done all I could to try and get back. The odds would have been against me, so to hear the news was good.”
As for the team, a good start to the season where they were flying high has soured and have won only once in their last 12 ahead of Wednesday’s game against Klagenfurt and earlier this week, saw head coach Doug Mason replaced by Jens Gustafsson.
The mood around the club has been one of frustration, according to Bowns, but after overcoming a coronavirus outbreak and the recent run of form, he insists the team are still focussed on their objective.
“There’s been some frustration around the club with the run we’ve been on and it’s not nice to see the coach, Doug Mason, leave earlier in the season. He’s the reason I’m here and he’s a really good coach in my opinion.
“Things just didn’t go right for us and we’ve been in a rut so the management wanted to make a statement that it wasn’t good enough.
“We started well after a disappointing pre-season and were top of the league for a bit. December happened and it hasn’t been a good month for us so we find ourselves in eighth place.
“We also had an outbreak of Covid which saw us miss three weeks of games just after my injury. My wife and I weren’t affected, but because we’d been exposed to others who were, we had to quarantine.
“It’s three points for a win in this league and if you can get on a streak, you can find yourselves climbing the league in as much as you can drop down if things aren’t going well.
“We’re still in there and aiming for the top five to go into the winners pick round then move on into the play-offs.”