Trade deadline acquisitions don’t always work out. Capitals forward Dustin Penner was one recent example. But now we may know more of a reason why.
After being acquired from Anaheim a day before the 2014 trade deadline, the hulking forward played just 18 games for the Caps during the final month and a half of the 2013-14 season. Thought to be a potential top-six player by George McPhee, Penner spent most of his time either scratched or in the bottom six, scoring just one goal and two assists. The Caps would go on to miss the playoffs that year for the first time since 2007-08.
Recently, Penner was a guest on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast and revealed a workers’ compensation claim that he is pursuing after allegedly breaking his neck and continuing to play for the Capitals.
“It happened probably eight weeks or six weeks left in the season, it was the day after we played the Kings in Washington,” Penner said. “Went to the rink and get in the gym and I couldn’t push anything with my left arm. If I was doing a push-up, it felt like being on the weight bench with 135 on one side and nothing on the other side.
“And then I went to the trainer,” Penner continued “and they said ‘ah, probably just a brachial plexus nerve.’ I said ‘Alright. You must think I’m Joni Pitkänen.’ So I went on the ice and I couldn’t shoot, I couldn’t handle the puck. There was just no feeling in my left arm and my right leg.”
Brachial plexus nerves are responsible for muscle movement and sensation in the shoulders, arms, and hands. Traumatic injury to the nerves typically occurs when the arm is stretched forcefully in one direction, and the nerves are either stretched or torn from their connection to the spinal cord.
Following his injury, Penner continued to play in seven more games for the Capitals. Penner said then-coach Adam Oates asked him what was wrong.
“So I played for a couple more weeks and Adam Oates is our coach at the time,” Penner recalled. “He’s a great guy, but he’s like ‘F*ck Penns, what’s going on?’ I’m like, ‘I told you, I can’t feel my left arm and my right leg!'”
Penner said he went to another doctor for a second opinion on the injury and was told he had a cervical fracture.
“So they kept putting me down on the lineup until they finally let me get a second opinion,” Penner said. “Because, well, you guys know, they kind of drag their feet on getting second opinions because they don’t think it’s as bad as you want it to be. And I didn’t want it to be that bad, but I went and got a second opinion and the doctor came back and said ‘Oh, your neck’s cracked in two spots, C6 and C7 vertebrae.'”
Penner’s hockey career ended after the 2013-14 season.
We reached out to the Capitals. They had no comment.
Penner, who was undrafted, ended his career after nine seasons and winning two Stanley Cups. His most famous incident came in 2012, when Penner threw out his back sitting down to eat a stack of delicious pancakes.
Following his hockey days, Penner has been dabbling in DJ-ing.
Headline photo: Jared Wickerham
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