VANCOUVER-– Antoine Mantha is happy to be back with the Washington Capitals after the forward missed nearly four months recovering from left shoulder surgery.
Mantha was injured when he tried to hit the Florida Panthers forward Antoine Duclair on November 4 and underwent surgery the following day. A lengthy rehab followed before his return against the Carolina Hurricanes on March 3.
“My longest [injury] before that it was nine weeks, so four months, obviously it took a while,” Mantha said. “But rehab went well and at first they told me 4-6 [months]so I’m pretty excited that it’s the four months.”
Mantha has played in five consecutive games since his return, scoring two points (one goal, one assist) to take his season tally to eight points (three goals, five assists) in 15 games. The 27-year-old is picking up pace and said he hopes to be back at the top of his game by the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“After four months, it’s just trying to relearn the speed of the game and trying to make all the easy plays,” Mantha said.
NHL.com caught up with Mantha, a native of Longueuil, Que., on Washington’s three-game road trip this week and spoke to him about his recovery, what it’s like to switch teams on the date limit of NHL trades, his excitement about his sister Elizabeth’s development as an on-ice official and more.
What happened in the game when you were injured?
“I think it was that play in the corner where I tried to hit Duclair and he kind of rolled over. I didn’t even see him again. I think our skates kinda bumped into each other and I just reached out to hold myself against the boards and it just had to be at the wrong angle or something.”
What was the hardest part of your recovery?
“The first few weeks I would say. You’re kind of in a bubble where you come out of surgery and you’re in pain and you don’t know when you’re going to play hockey again. Once the inflammation goes down and you start to move, at least you have a plan that you need to hit every tick mark towards recovery and it goes right after that.”
The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline approaches on March 21. You were traded to the Capitals by the Detroit Red Wings on the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline Day (April 12, 2021). What was the experience?
“For me, obviously, I didn’t expect it. I had just signed a new contract with Detroit (a four-year contract on November 3, 2020), so when I got that call, we were in Carolina and I got this call from [Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman] telling me that I was traded here, it was kind of a shock at first. But as soon as I called the coach (Peter Laviolette) and everything, they told me I was playing the next night. So it was a quick turnaround.
“I jumped in a car, grabbed all my luggage that I had at the time on the road and grabbed my hockey bag and drove to DC and straight to the hotel. The next morning I meet all the boys, I meet all the coaching staff and it went very well, the adaptation period lasted a few days and I think it was like being at home.
What do players face when being traded that people might not think about?
“We were traveling in tracksuits with Detroit, so we would go to games in tracksuits. So when I got traded, I had no shirt, no tie, and I was playing the next day. Luckily my fiancée packed a bag. and passed it to me overnight and it arrived in the morning, in fact, she drove from Detroit to DC the next day and brought some things to the hotel, stayed a few days, then came back to Detroit, grabbed our pup and came back.
So she deserves credit for a big assist?
“Exactly. It’s mostly her. You turn around and you just need your hockey bag and a costume and you’re ready, basically. So kudos to her for that.”
How did you experience watching your older sister Elizabeth progress in her development as one of the first women to officiate in the American Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and to referee women’s hockey at the Beijing Olympics in 2022?
“It was great. When she was in Beijing, I think I texted her every day just to check in. Obviously there was a big jet lag, I think there was 13 o’clock. She had an amazing time and hit all the milestones she is right now, even last night she texted me after a game (QMJHL) it’s so awesome My family can her support at home, and I can support her from here. It’s awesome to watch.
Elizabeth was also a very good player, playing professionally in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League before becoming a referee. When you were younger, which of you, according to your parents, was best suited to become a civil servant?
“We were hoping it wouldn’t be me.”
What would it be like if she made it to the NHL?
“Oh my God. That would be awesome, obviously. It kind of became a dream when she did a few combines in the NHL and all the other sports inspire women to [officiating]. Obviously, hockey is a little different with the fights that could happen, but who knows? Maybe one day she’ll be good enough and she’ll be there. I don’t think she would referee my matches. I don’t think it would be allowed, but I don’t know.”
Your grandfather, André Pronovost, won the Stanley Cup for four consecutive seasons as a forward with the Montreal Canadiens (1957-1960). To what extent was he and this story part of your and your sister’s childhood?
“For the whole family, it was huge. Obviously a lot of experiences, a lot of good stories from the old days. He played with Jean Béliveau, Maurice Richard. Those two names are the two biggest French-Canadian names and it was awesome. He was often around the rinks when we were young. He followed my junior career (with Val d’Or in the QMJHL). He came several times to Val d’Or, Montreal, Quebec. So that was fun. Really funny.”
Was there another sport you practiced when you were younger?
“I played tennis until I was about 13. Then I kind of had to make a decision between the two, hockey or tennis, because both teams wanted me to play all the year and for me, I liked hockey more. . So I pursued that and took up golf when I stopped playing tennis.”
Could you have played tennis professionally?
“At that age, I don’t know. But I had several tournaments and things like that.”