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Odelein having knee surgery
Penguins defenseman to miss rest of season
Monday, February 27, 2006

By Dave Molinari, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Lyle Odelein isn't necessarily ready to retire, and there's always a chance he won't have to.

But if his playing career is over -- a real possibility -- it's clear this is not the way Odelein thought it would end. Or wanted it to.

Not after 1,056 games in the NHL.

But, at age 37, Odelein recognizes that the season-ending surgery he will have on his right knee tomorrow might well be career-ending, too. That his appearance in the Penguins' 4-1 loss at Chicago Jan. 13 might go down as his final one in the league.

Odelein, whose knee was creaky for most of the season, skated with his teammates Wednesday in their first post-Olympic break workout and had no apparent problem.

The next day, however, the Penguins went through off-ice testing, including a high-tempo session on a stationary bike. The stress was too much for Odelein's knee and the decision to operate came shortly thereafter.

There is no consensus on whether Odelein could have made it through the balance of the season if his knee hadn't been subjected to demands of the fitness testing. Some inside the organization believe there is a clear cause-and-effect relationship, while coach Michel Therrien contends Odelein's knee was doomed to give out at some point.

"If a guy can't put in an effort, he won't be able to play," Therrien said. "As soon as he gave an effort [on skates], it would have happened."

Odelein declined to speculate on whether riding the bike caused a problem that might otherwise have been avoided.

The precise repairs that will be made to Odelein's knee aren't known, and likely will be determined by the damage Dr. Charles Burke detects during the operation. Odelein, though, pointed out that there are fewer possibilities than most people would have during such a procedure.

"I have no more cartilage, and I have no more meniscus left in my knee," he said. "I've been cleaned out a few times already."

Odelein, who missed nine games before the break because of knee problems, had considered surgery earlier in the season, but ruled it out because he believed he could make it to the end of the season. And because he felt he might draw some interest from other clubs as the March 9 trade deadline approaches.

"I thought that if I was healthy, maybe I'd get traded to a contender, or something like that," he said.

Truth be told, he figured he had signed on with one when he joined the Penguins as a free agent Sept. 2. He was an unrestricted free agent and sifted through several proposals before deciding this situation was the most promising.

"I talked to a couple of teams, and I wanted to come here because, honest to God, I thought we were going to win," he said. "That I'd have a chance to win another Stanley Cup.

"It just didn't happen, but do I regret it? No. I met a lot of great people. ... I just wish we were winning instead of losing."

Odelein, who played for Montreal, New Jersey, Phoenix, Columbus, Chicago, Dallas and Florida before coming to the Penguins, appeared in just 27 games, recording no goals, one assist and 50 penalty minutes.

He has, however, been a significant presence in the locker room, a veteran whose commitment, enthusiasm and love of his work set an example coaches hope can be contagious among younger players.

"He's a warrior," Therrien said. "When you talk about a guy with a passion for the game, he's one of them."

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Hey kids,

I have created this community to reminisce about my favorite hockey player, LYLE ODELEIN...

I like Odie, for always being there, standing up for team and teammates. He reminds me of Lambert, both in appearance and style of play.

I've always had great respect for Odelein, not only as a solid D-man, but as a real team guy who took on everyone. He will never be a top 20 guy, but his fight card more than speaks for itself.

It was tough seeing him the past few years, but that comes with age. Bottom line. Odelein fought all the top names and survived to have a pretty successful career.
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