In the back of his mind though, Bertuzzi had some doubts if he would be there. A season plagued with head and neck injuries — the result of an early December fight — saw the 19-year-old Sudburian play in just 29 regular season games.
Concussion was never an official diagnosis, but many suspected that was the issue.
Whatever the reason, Bertuzzi admits there were times during his rehab he didn’t think he would be back on the ice until the fall, if at all.
“It was a scary time and I was a little nervous when the playoffs got closer, wondering if I would be back,” Bertuzzi said.
He was riding high after getting back on skates to help the Storm win the OHL championship over North Bay on May 9.
“But everything went smooth and I was working out and getting back into game shape and it all worked out,” Bertuzzi said.
The 2013 second-round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings returned in Game 3 of the Storm’s first round playoff series with the Plymouth Whalers. He went on to be a valuable performer in Guelph’s run through the Western Conference, and then in the five-game series over the Battalion to win the J. Ross Robertson Cup.
Bertuzzi might have played in only 18 games, but he recorded 10 goals and added seven assists, and was an impressive plus-14.
A nice record that almost didn't happen as the Storm organization was close to shutting Bertuzzi down for the rest of the year. But they took one last shot and sent him down to Detroit where the Red Wings doctors took over.
While there were plenty of playoff highlights, Bertuzzi said returning to the North to play North Bay in the finals was something special.
“Even the drive north was awesome,” Bertuzzi said. “A lot of family and friends were there because it’s so close to home and playing in that atmosphere ... was pretty cool.”
The Storm now readies for the four-team Memorial Cup tournament.
“We definitely know London and some of the guys know about the other top guys from the other teams from the World Juniors, and we know what they are capable of — after all they’re there for a reason,” Bertuzzi said.
“We’re just going to go into it like we did the OHL Championship. We’re going to play our hockey and hope we can pull out a win.”
The Guelph Storm play their first Memorial Cup game Saturday against the Edmonton Oil Kings, the champions of the Western Hockey League.