The first hint that something was wrong for Kevin Gravel began in midsummer. As with most hockey players, he was starting to accelerate his conditioning to prepare for the season — in his case, Kings training camp.
But that became more difficult than he had experienced.
“I’d get home from workouts and I’d just be gassed,” Gravel said.
Gravel first didn’t think much of it, but his girlfriend urged him to get examined, and the diagnosis was something he’d never heard of: Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines that causes fatigue, abdominal pain and weight loss, among other symptoms. Gravel was hospitalized for several days in Minneapolis, and at one point lost 40 pounds, notably 20 pounds in a three-day period. He was almost unrecognizable to his girlfriend.
“She was like, ‘Oh my God, what happened to you?’ ” Gravel said.
Within two weeks of treatment, Gravel resumed normal life activity, and he understandably brought perspective upon his recall to the Kings on Wednesday.
“The big picture — there’s a lot more issues that I could have been hit with,” Gravel said. “At least this was able to be manageable and controlled. At the time, it’s a tough thing to go through, but it’s all good now. And it could be worse.”
The cause of the disease is not known, and Gravel does not have a family history of it. He still takes medication but said he has been fine since the start of the season. His recall happened because of an upper-body injury to defenseman Christian Folin. Kings coach John Stevens said he has received good reports about Gravel’s play with the Ontario Reign.
“I think he’s continually getting stronger and stronger, and he’s really played well,” Stevens said. “He looks like he’s really got his strength back. He’s playing fast. He’s probably been their best defenseman down there.”
Having played 49 games with the Kings last season, Gravel was thought to have a jump on making the opening-night roster. He has displayed athleticism and a good shot but, like many budding defensemen, needed to work on inconsistency.
Gravel was beaten out by Kurtis MacDermid and Oscar Fantenberg in camp, and the Kings recalled Paul LaDue instead of him earlier this season. Gravel said “it’s disappointing when you initially get sent down,” but he remained positive. Going through his personal ordeal made him more grateful to be in the Kings dressing room.
“This is where you want to be, you know,” Gravel said. “It’s an exciting time, and it’s a good feeling to get back here.”
Stevens didn’t know whether Folin would be able to return when he is eligible after Christmas and said he didn’t think “it’s expected to be anything long, long term, but I think the first two or three days are going to be an indicator of how long he’s going to be.”
Stevens said Folin fell and slid into the boards and “kind of jammed himself.”
KINGS UP NEXT
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
On the air: TV: FSW; Radio: 790.
Update: Tyson Barrie is second in the NHL among defensemen scoring. He played more than 24 minutes Monday to help Colorado make up for the absence of Erik Johnson, serving the last of a two-game suspension for boarding. Colorado is 8-9-2 since it traded Matt Duchene in a three-team deal last month. Semyon Varlamov is expected to start.