The Washington Times - April 11, 2013, 01:01PM

Pat Peake is optimistic that Joni Pitkanen will get back to playing hockey effectively after breaking his left heel bone, based on his history and what he knows of the Carolina Hurricanes defenseman’s injury.

The ex-Washington Capitals center suffered a broken right calcaneus bone in 1996 that essentially ended his NHL career. Last week after Pitkanen was injured on a similar icing play, Peake got a call from North Carolina and had Carolina assistant coach Dave Lewis, Pitkanen and the training staff on speakerphone on the other end.

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“We kind of just went through the whole process,” Peake said. “I said to Pitkanen and that group there that I was speaking with; first and foremost I said obviously you want to get back to being a normal human being. Still to this day I can’t walk the length of the mall.”

Peake played just five more games after his heel bone broke in 14 places and twisted. Pitkanen’s broke in eight places but didn’t move, Peake said. That’s considered a positive.

“Your heel bone, the best way to describe it is like an egg. So if you give it a good flick or a thump, it just kind of splinters and cracks like that,” Peake said. “And it just goes right around the whole way. That’s exactly what happened to his. It’s such an odd injury.”

Peake said it’s an injury common to construction workers who fall from two or three stories and people in car accidents who slam on the brakes. In hockey, Peake was the prime example before Pitkanen.

But Peake had surgery and didn’t think his injury was handled particularly well. He’s more hopeful about Pitkanen.

“Am I optimistic that Pitkanen can get back to playing? Yeah, I kind of am, as far as playing, because he’s not going to go the surgery route,” Peake said. “You just hope that obviously the medical aspect of it has come a long way. I know there’s some good doctors and some good people.”

That doesn’t mean Peake’s conversation with the Hurricanes’ crew and Pitkanen was all positive.

“They said, ‘How much pain are you in on a daily basis?’ ” Peake said. “And I said, ‘Well, to be honest, I don’t really want him to hear this. I hurt every single day.’ ”

Peake hopes medical advancements have come a long way in the 17 years between his injury and Pitkanen’s. But the 29-year-old getting back to hockey isn’t Peake’s primary concern.

“I pray for Joni,” Peake said. “I know not only can he recover and get back to playing hockey, but more importantly he’s 29 years old and when he’s 40, which I will be in May, can he walk the mall with his family? Can he go to the park and kick the soccer ball around and chase his kids? Because that’s a whole lot more important than playing hockey. …

“I think they have a good plan for him, from what I’m told, and the right people looking after him. All you can do is pray for him, hope that he does well. He’s got an optimistic attitude and you just pray that he’s going to be OK.”