Brock McLeod determined to catch up on lost time

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It seems like some things could not happen at a worse moment. They take us by surprise, change our plans, destroy all our hard work and push us into a vicious circle. A great example of that would be Brock McLeod who, before even the start of his first QMJHL campaign, had to face his biggest challenge of the season: mononucleosis.

At the end of the Sherbrooke Phoenix training camp, where which he had secured a spot in the lineup, Brock began to feel oddly tired. In the first place, he believed that he was simply exhausted after the rookie camp, but things began to deteriorate well beyond a simple energy drop. It was at this point that the diagnosis of mononucleosis reached him.

“I really had a solid camp, I felt in the best shape of my life. I returned home a few days before starting the season, and before leaving, Coach Julien had passed the remark that I looked tired and gave me a day off. Then when I got home I felt really exhausted, I was sleeping all the time, and had some pretty serious flu symptoms,” says McLeod. “When I came back to Sherbrooke, we didn’t see any progress as time went on so we really understood that something was wrong. After a few tests, we had confirmation of mononucleosis.”

His compete level started to gradually decline. The main part of the illness left him in bad shape, and the confidence and momentum he built up during the pre-season progressively disappeared.

“I arrived at the camp at just over 175 lbs for a six-foot-one guy, which is pretty okay in my opinion, but I was losing my energy and strength faster than I had anticipated. Then it got worse, I started to lose weight. I no longer had the ‘edge’ that had allowed me to perform so well at camp, even after the symptoms had disappeared. Mononucleosis takes a long time to completely disappear and leaves marks. At one point I even went below 160 lbs,” recalls the 18-year-old forward.

Brock lost his place in the lineup as the team preferred him to stay at home in order to rest and regain his strength. Even if this was the right thing to do under the circumstances, McLeod was getting more and more frustrated.

“One time I went to see a practice and the coaches told me that they would prefer me to go back to bed. Still, I was still unable to get rid of fatigue,” he continued. “The few times I managed to sleep a good number of hours, it was not really a restful sleep. I lost muscle mass, and I could not regain weight the way I normally would do, no matter how. I wouldn’t say that I felt weak, I just did not see how I would manage to get back on top of things and secure my spot again because several other guys were doing well were gaining coach’s trust while I could only watch them play, and couldn’t do anything to help my case.”

He finally suited up again at the very end of October, but was still far from full capacity. He will therefore be scratched a few times, adding to his frustration. In total, Brock will have scored two goals and as many assists in 24 games, including a goal in his last game before being sent back home in January. The remainder of his hockey season will be spent with the Valley Wildcats in the MJAHL.

“At that time, I was frustrated with the turn of events because I thought I had a chance to finish the season in Sherbrooke, but given the additions during the trade period and the direction the team’s season was taking, they [the management team] thought it would be better to send me to play closer to home. Initially I perceived the announcement as a non-confidence vote so I wasn’t too excited to joined the Wildcats. However, as I got more ice time, I got over a point per game, and I gained back some confidence. I was still not in great shape but I was working hard to get there. I think it also reassured me for the upcoming summer too,” says the left-handed shooter.

Now that this difficult season is behind him, Brock has resumed training earlier than usual this offseason. However, he had to make a difficult choice a few weeks ago, as a lot of his progress was at stake. After much thought, he took the risk of avoiding surgery, increasing his chances of winning his spot back in Sherbrooke.

“I had the choice of getting tonsils removed at the beginning of July. The benefits are that I would not have been sick as often, that I would have sore throats less often and that I would have greatly reduced the risk of infections like streptococcus,” McLeod said. “I usually have one or two a year and it lasts an average of five days. On the other hand, if I were to do it, I could not train for at least two weeks, maybe even three. It came with a liquid diet that is not ideal either in my situation. I have a friend who chose the operation, and he lost 17 pounds while being inactive for more than 15 days: this is not at all something I can afford with a place on the roster at stake, so I I decided to postpone surgery until next summer. I really hope that my health will hold on this season and that I will have made the right choice,” analyzes McLeod.

After crushing black last season, Brock finally feels back on the right track. The friendly young man from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia is convinced that he has what it takes to come back strong and again force coaches to get him on the team.

“I like how my training is going! It’s certain that I started a little behind with all the weight problems, but I’m very serious at the gym and on ice. I gradually am getting back more power in my shot and skating stride, so I’m really positive! I am also one of the few centermen above 6’0 ” besides Hugo Roy with the Phoenix so I will focus on that aspect to stand out and regain what I lost “, he said optimistically.

With only 24 QMJHL games on his resume, Brock is still eligible for the rookie camp, the limit being 25 games, even if he was drafted in 2015. However, he has no intention to take it easy since he knows that he will be less entitled to the leniency of his coaches than a young gun coming straight out of the draft, for example.

“I want to prove to them that I deserve a place with the team. It is not because I am the oldest that I will spare myself, on the contrary. The coaches will have a stern eye on me and it’s totally fine,” he said. “I want to impose myself right off the bat with the Rookie Challenge, and remind them why they kept me on the team after the camp last season.”

Exclusive photo credit: Vincent Levesque-Rousseau, Sherbrooke Phoenix

 

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