January 18th was just another day for most people, but for Dean Arsene it finally meant returning to the ice after having double sports hernia surgery during the offseason. The Hershey defenseman has been sidelined the first half of the season while rehabbing.
Arsene last skated in a game on June 7, 2007, when the Hershey Bears lost game five of the Calder Cup Finals in Hamilton, Ontario. He played through the injury during the Calder Cup Finals, but was able to put the pain aside and lace up his skates every game.
Dean missed the first two rounds of the 2007 playoffs, but returned in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Manchester Monarchs. The Hershey captain first started practicing on November 27 in non-contact drills. At the time, it was thought he could possibly return on the New Years Eve game, but the rehabbing process went slower than expected. He was finally cleared to return to game action on Thursday.
“I really don’t have any pain,” Arsene told The Patriot-News on Thursday. “Sometimes I get little pins and needles, but that’s about it. I’m as close to 100 percent as I could hope for coming back. The only reason I wouldn’t be 100 is just strictly conditioning, and that will come back hopefully quickly.”
It has been eight months since Arsene last played in a game, but on Friday that changed when he took the ice for the Bears in Albany.
Arsene has been a fixture on Hershey’s blue line since 2004, when he was promoted from Reading. Dubbed “The Mayor” of Hershey, Arsene quickly became a fan favorite with his style of play. He’s an in-your-face defenseman who isn’t afraid to mix it up with anyone if needed.
Arsene, who has served as Hershey’s captain the previous season-and-a-half, was a key member of the Bears 2006 Calder Cup-winning team. In 21 games that postseason, Arsene provided an assist and 29 penalty minutes. His leadership during the 2006 playoffs led the team that was set for destiny. A team of virtual unknowns new to Hershey, Arsene was the only surviving member from the Colorado affiliation; they skated Hershey to its ninth Calder Cup.
“Winning the Cup and being champions is bigger than anything you can accomplish as an individual,” Arsene said. “Although individually you want to succeed, it is great to be able to do it with your teammates.”
During his tenure in Hershey, Arsene was voted as the unsung hero and top defenseman in 2005. The awards are voted on by the Hershey Bears Booster Club and given annually at the end of the season.
It has been a whirlwind career for Arsene. The native of Abbotsford, BC, signed his first NHL contract in 2006 with the Washington Capitals. In 207 games with the Bears from 2004-07, Arsene has five goals and 24 assists with 552 penalty minutes. Being a fan favorite on and off the ice, one this is certain: the fans will love seeing number 29 back on the ice.