J.P. Hoornstra, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/Sun
Click here for J.P.'s Blog on Germain
ONTARIO - When Shawn Germain awoke Saturday morning with a burning sensation in his left hand and numbness in his fingers, he knew it was time.
The Reign defenseman made it official Thursday: He will undergo season-ending surgery to repair an injury he's played with all season.
"It's the toughest decision I've ever had to make in my life," Germain said. "It's an injury that stems back to last year and I didn't want to make that decision then. I don't want to make it now but it's an incredibly tough decision.
"A lot of different emotions are going on right now."
The timing isn't ideal for the Reign, who are coming off a 7-0 loss Sunday that extended their losing streak to three games. At 18-25-3-4, the Reign hold the worst record in the National Conference and would miss the playoffs if they started today.
Now the team will have to make up ground over the season's final 22 games without one of its steadiest and most versatile defensemen.
The 27-year-old Germain had three goals and 20 assists - both of which already represented career highs - in his sixth professional season. He was second only to David Walker among Reign defensemen in both categories.
No date has been set for the surgery but Germain expects the recovery to take 6 to 6½ months, which projects to September - a month before 2010-11 training camp begins.
Germain had missed two games earlier in the season with the same injury, but this was unexpected.
"You don't prepare yourself to lose one of your team leaders and the soul of your team," Reign coach Karl Taylor said. "He played 40 minutes a game for us. He's one of the best kids I ever coached."
Taylor had already been working the phones this week to acquire help for a team that ranks last in the ECHL in goals scored. The injury to Germain pushes the need for a defenseman higher up the list.
The Reign already have six defensemen on their roster and Germain's minutes are up for grabs.
"He logged a lot of minutes, played penalty kill, a little power play, and in 5-on-5 situations," defenseman Chad Starling said. "Everybody's going to have to step up and do a little extra."
The Reign have already been playing without enforcer James McEwan, who hasn't played since injuring his hand in a fight on Feb. 6.
Germain was one of two alternate captains and Taylor said he hasn't decided if another player will be chosen to wear the "A."
Captain Jon Francisco said there are plenty of leaders still in the room to help the team cope with another loss.
"You make the best out of it," Francisco said. "That's the mindset we're going to have to have. He's a guy in the locker room that will be missed by a lot of guys."