Shea Theodore couldn’t help but marvel at the series of fortunate events over the past 4½ months that led to the defenseman standing in front of his locker Friday at City National Arena.
— The Golden Knights’ ouster from the first round of the NHL playoffs.
— Participating in the IIHF world championship for Team Canada.
— His subsequent failed drug test.
“I strongly believe after what happened last year,” Theodore said, “everything happens for a reason.”
Theodore called himself “extremely lucky” in his first public comments since he revealed in an essay Thursday on The Players’ Tribune website that he underwent surgery this summer for testicular cancer.
The 24-year-old is expected to make a full recovery, though he did not participate in the first practice of training camp at City National Arena because of a “minor tweak” suffered during testing recently, according to coach Gerard Gallant.
The injury is not related to Theodore’s surgery, and he is considered day to day. Gallant said the team will bring him back slowly, meaning he is unlikely to play in Sunday’s preseason opener against Arizona at T-Mobile Arena.
“I’ve been through some tough things in my life, but what (Theodore) went through was harder than anything,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “It’s hard to put yourself out there and tell people you’re not OK. But the sooner you talk to others about it and accept what is happening, the better it’s going to be. I’m so proud of him.”
The Knights’ controversial loss to San Jose in Game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinal on April 23 allowed Theodore and forwards Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone to join Team Canada for the IIHF world championship from May 10 to 26 in Slovakia.
Theodore wrote in his essay he was notified by officials he failed a drug test that was administered before the quarterfinals.
However, the hormone (hCG) that triggered the positive test can be a sign of testicular cancer, and the diagnosis was confirmed when Theodore returned home.
So, in a fortuitous butterfly effect, Cody Eakin’s five-minute major penalty may have an even more profound meaning going forward.
“It definitely caught me off guard,” said winger Alex Tuch, who was Theodore’s roommate during the first two seasons. “You can never be too safe nowadays. Everyone knows somebody that has cancer. It hit a little closer to home than we would have liked it, but he’s back here getting ready for the season just like any of us.”
“He shows up here like nothing happened,” Marchessault said of Theodore. “He smiles every day. It’s a blessing when you think about it.”
Theodore said he wanted to go public with his diagnosis to be an advocate for testicular cancer awareness and early detection.
He announced Thursday he will donate to early detection causes for every point he notches this season. The Vegas Golden Knights Foundation will match his contribution dollar for dollar.
Theodore’s story caught the attention of Gov. Steve Sisolak, who tweeted a message of support Friday from his verified account.
On behalf of the great State of Nevada, we are grateful for your recovery & willingness to share your story. Your efforts will help spread awareness about testicular cancer, break down stigmas & encourage others to know the symptoms and get screened. Thank you. https://t.co/B4t4NbdjMf
— Governor Sisolak (@GovSisolak) September 13, 2019
“It was an honor to be able to hear from some of the fans and hear some stories about what everyone’s going through,” Theodore said. “And everyone has their own battles. It was just kind of an honor to be able to share mine.
“I’m not normally one of the guys that’s very open about a lot of things, but I think it was an important time. The way that I found out and how lucky I was was definitely a factor in that.”
Golden Knights preseason schedule
Sunday — vs. Arizona, 1:30 p.m. (NHL Network)
Tuesday — at Colorado, 6 p.m.
Thursday — at Los Angeles, 7:30 p.m. (NHL Network)
Sept. 21 — at San Jose, 5 p.m.
Sept. 25 — vs. Colorado, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 — vs. Los Angeles, 7 p.m. (NHL Network)
Sept. 29 — vs. San Jose, 5 p.m. (NHL Network)
* All games will be broadcast on KTNV Channel 13