‘Whatever it Takes’ documentary details Connor McDavid’s road to recovery

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The threat of missing the 2019-20 season was real for Connor McDavid. A knee injury suffered in April began what would end up being a summer filled with grueling rehab for the Oilers captain.

The entire process, from the April 6 injury to his return on October 2, was captured in “Connor McDavid: Whatever It Takes,” a Wasserman produced documentary that will air at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN Tuesday night.

Moments after his left leg crashed into the goal post, McDavid was captured saying, “I think it’s broken.” He ended up suffering a completely torn PCL, tears to both his medial and lateral menisci, a completely torn popliteus muscle, and tibial plateau fracture.

“I felt my leg slam into the metal post and thought it was in two pieces,” McDavid says in the documentary. “I was terrified to stand up…wondering if my career may be over.”

McDavid then faced the biggest decision of his career: Undergo surgery, which would mean missing the entire upcoming season, or go the rehab route and see how the knee responded. 

Rehab was the chosen path, but there were still points during the summer where surgery remained a potential option. McDavid and his team — Wasserman agent Jeff Jackson, Dr. Mark Lindsay, and former NHLer Gary Roberts, who trains numerous players — settled on taking the summer to rehab. If progress was nowhere to be found by training camp, then the choice would be surgery. But by mid-August, however, there was signs of progress as the knee began to heal.

The grind McDavid put into rehab was paying off, and the process was being captured on film. As progress was made, an initial thought for the footage was something short form, possibly for social media, was brought up. Once he returned to the ice for opening night and was back to his old form, that’s when they wanted to tell his comeback entire story. 

“In no way was this supposed to be a Connor McDavid hero piece,” Jackson told NBC Sports this week. “It was more showing that taking the approach that we ultimately did with him, to go non-surgically, was an option for players going forward, depending on the circumstance, obviously, and depending on the injury. Taking that approach is pretty inspiring for other athletes, whether they’re pro or even amateur athletes because missing the whole season is a huge deal when your career is very finite anyway.”

As the documentary shows, the rehab was incredibly difficult, especially with his goal of being ready for opening night. But there were plenty of tough days mentally for McDavid — days where self-doubt and frustration crept in.

“Those guys who are elite, they can have a couple of rough days but there’s never a question that they’re going to pull the chute or quit,” Jackson said. “They just soldier through it. They put that bad day behind them and move on. That’s kind of what Connor’s summer was like.”

McDavid, his camp, and the Oilers were very quiet about his status over the summer, leaving plenty of unanswered questions. But when he showed off his vintage self by scoring against the Canucks on opening night — and added a little bit extra to his celebration — there was no doubt he was back.

Through 55 games McDavid, who is currently recovering from a quad injury, has 30 goals and 81 points. Any fears that the injury would change the way he plays have been put to rest.

“They pay me $100 million dollars to play my game,” says McDavid. “Part of my game is beating guys wide and going to the net. I’ll have to give my money back if I stop doing that.”

Connor McDavid: Whatever It Takes will air Tuesday night at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

MORE: PHT’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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