THE SUMMER workout began like any other in Brandon, Manitoba.
Ryan White warmed up and stretched with his trainer, then started his routine. When it came time for the strength portion of his session, he piled the plates on the bench-press bar.
He lifted the bar off the rack and pressed upward - a repetition he'd practiced thousands of times on his way to the NHL.
"I was going for another rep and something happened," White said. "I knew I was in trouble."
White's left pectoral muscle exploded. He was less than 3 weeks removed from signing a 1-year contract with the Flyers on Aug. 7. The weight of the unstable, 45-pound bar and the future of his hockey career were suddenly crashing down on him.
"As soon as it happened, I was pretty much screaming for my life," said White, 26. "My trainer ran over and she was basically throwing the bar on the ground to get it off me. It happened quick, it was a pretty scary situation. It just kind of bursted on me."
Nearly 4 months later, yesterday was White's first full practice with the Flyers after being cleared for contact by doctors over the weekend. He had been skating with the team overall for a few weeks, gradually ramping up from skating to passing and shooting.
It has been a long road. White underwent surgery at Methodist Hospital on Aug. 27.
"Emotionally, I think this was probably one of the toughest things I've ever had to go through," White said. "You're excited to come to Philly and get a new opportunity. I was so excited to get here, come in and have a good camp and be ready to go. Instead, my first conversation with the training staff and [Jim McCrossin] was right after the injury."
Now, the former Montreal pugilist will have the unenviable task of working his way into Craig Berube's lineup against players who have been competing since September.
White signed a two-way deal with the Flyers, meaning he can be sent to the Phantoms at any point. He would need to clear waivers based on his time spent in the NHL.
White spent parts of the last five seasons with the Canadiens, racking up 232 penalty minutes in 141 games. He is a pest, for certain, but plays a style that isn't actually all that different from current Canadien forward Brandon Prust.
It's a rambunctious, rattle-your-cage, rollicking way to play. White revels in it. He also has better than average hands for a classic checking-line forward.
Prust, now 30, netted 29 points with the Rangers in 2010-11. Believe it or not, White posted better numbers in the AHL (34 points in 62 games in 2009-10) than Prust ever did in the minors.
"He brings energy and grit," Ron Hextall said. "He's on a two-way deal, so the feeling was he gives us either a gritty, 10-minute [per night] player or a good call-up from the minor leagues. That's kind of up to him. We'll see where he's at."
Last year was White's second full season in the NHL. He actually took a step back with the Flyers, going from a guaranteed $700,000, one-way deal with the Canadiens to a $575,000 contract that would pay him $250,000 in the AHL.
It was a risk White was willing to take, believing his career was on the upswing after getting his feet wet in Montreal.
Then August's freak accident in the gym changed everything.
"It was tough," White said. "You've got to regroup and refocus, I think. I was fortunate enough to get down here and start working with Jimmy. He made me feel like part of the family right away. I can't say enough about the guys, too, they've brought me in and made me feel great. I was fortunate enough to be signed by Philly. They've been treating me like a million bucks and probably saved my career."
Recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Peter Forsberg will be honored by the Flyers before tonight's game with a video and ceremonial puck drop . . . Vinny Lecavalier is expected to be a healthy scratch for the seventh straight game against his former team. He hasn't played since Nov. 29 . . . Coach Craig Berube said a win against East-leading Tampa Bay tonight "would go a long way" toward restoring the Flyers' confidence. The Flyers are undefeated in regulation (3-0-2) in their last five games. They have also dropped five straight to Tampa Bay . . . Berube spoke of the Lightning's "very underrated defense," since most of the attention is on Steven Stamkos . . . First-round pick Travis Sanheim, 18, was cut from Canada's World Junior roster on Sunday. Samuel Morin, 19, remains in Canada's camp with three more roster spots left to be decided. The tournament begins in 10 days.
"I never knew the mumps were around anymore. This is really different and weird. I've never seen anything like this before. We're just hoping it doesn't come around here. The only disease I've ever seen around a team is bad hands - and I led the way."
- Flyers coach Craig Berube, on the mumps, after the NHL's 14th player from five different teams - including Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby - were diagnosed over the last 6 weeks.