Okotoks Oilers defenceman Tanner Sawka comes back from double hip surgery

Tanner Sawka was having an outstanding rookie season two years ago with the Okotoks Oilers. 

He had two goals and 14 assists in 45 games but was playing in constant pain.

Bone spurs had developed in his hips and Sawka says he knew he was going to have to do something about it. 

So he put his hockey career on hold and went in for double hip surgery.

"Yeah I was like, pretty bummed out," Sawka said.

"I knew I had to get it done just for my way of life, the way I wanted to live in the future and then once I found out my hips needed to be worked on I was pretty bummed out but  I just had to be resilient."

Long road back

There were many who thought he'd never play another game with the Oilers but the 20-year-old defenceman was bound and determined to get back on the blades.

The rehab was long and Sawka admits it could get frustrating. He says it wasn't easy.

"It was pretty tough you know just being stuck in bed and watching these guys on the ice and stuff, it was really hard to watch," he said.

"Just cheering them on and being positive with myself you know it just helped a lot."

An inspiration to his team

Sawka played one game before the AJHL shut down in late November due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He's played six more games since the restart. Head coach Tyler Deis says Sawka has been a big inspiration to the entire team.

"You know, a long two years for this individual," Deis said.

"Just him going through the mental part of it and the physical part of it. Especially with the COVID in our province and being able to play right now is huge."

First game was electric

When Tanner Sawka stepped onto the ice for that first game this season, all of his teammates were in awe. They knew what he had to go through to resume his career with the Oilers. Carson Dyck is one of his best friends on the team and he says everyone was super happy for Sawka.

"It was electric and we were all pretty pumped for him," Dyck said.

"I mean for him, I don't know the exact time but it's been a couple of years at least.  He's been here for three years and for him to get out for that first game after the injury was awesome.  It was great to see."

Proud of himself

The ultimate goal for Sawka will be to earn a scholarship so he can go to school and continue to play hockey. He says he knew the only the only way that was going to happen was if he was on the ice, playing games for the Oilers.

"It took a lot of hard work.  Lots of months of rehab just getting worked on and yeah I'm pretty proud of myself."

Sawka and the Oilers are back in action on Friday night when they play host to the Calgary Canucks.