Isle of Healing

I’m back! I’ve emerged from the cave and what a trip it’s been. I went from the highest peak at the highest level to the lowest valley of doom. I’ve seen it all, man. And I’ve learned more about myself, my world, and the world around me in the past seven months than I had learned in the previous 33 years.

This concussion has shown me many truths.

I had some serious blinders on! I used to think they were a good thing because they kept me focused on my goal way up there at the top of the mountain. I’ve come to realize that those blinders kept me separate from people who needed my help.

I’ve learned what’s important. And what’s not. I’ve seen my greatest flaws and also my greatest gifts. Here’s a clue: punching people in the face, while entertaining, exhilarating, and strangely poetic, is not one of my greatest gifts. It’s a means that got me to the top league in the world and to see a childhood dream fulfilled. And for that, I’m grateful.

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Icy Things

I always thought it was possible, from day one.

Even junior year of high school when I was on the Varsity B team, I knew. Something special was in the works. This was my break out year. This is the year I learned how to forecheck. I learned to be the savage beast. For my whole hockey life, up until then, I was a defenseman.

All that changed when Coach unleashed me for a shift at offense. It was instantly clear that I could do something out of the ordinary. I learned that I could put myself into a particular state of mind. I could become the hunter, and god help the hunted. I relentlessly smashed my opponents, and have been doing it ever since.

That day I was forever branded: power forward.

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What is the sound of one puck clapping against a cool ice surface face-off frenzy of fiendish foes? For those of us in the know, we inherently hold a special place in our hearts for that unmistakeable clap! of a perfectly timed and perfectly placed puck drop. The smooth, mysterious face of that rubber disk hits the surface of the ice and something happens. That clap radiates right up into the rafters of arenas and into molecules of our very existence as hockey folk.

There’s the sound again -listen- a precision saucer pass soars through the air, and again, clap! lands perfectly on the ice inches from the tape. I’ve always been enamored by the sound of the clapping puck. Even as a youngster, I would hold a puck in each hand and clap them together. Somehow it made me happy, and still does.

There’s a strange frenetic energy in a hockey puck. It’s some unidentified flying object in a world of balls, the standard among all other sports. But our sport requires the biggest balls of them all.

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I won’t get into the back story of how I ended up in Europe in the first place; that will come at a later date. Today I won’t talk about living in a ski lodge in the middle of the Julian Alps in Western Slovenia, feeling shamed and empty, hiding from the world and afraid to fail. I won’t delve into any of that now.

I’ll start where the new version of me started.

Sometime in May in the year 2010, is where the shift happened. I know the exact location where it happened; I know exactly what I was doing. It was in a parking lot, in a park, and I was running as fast as I could. What was I running from? I felt the shift, and it was as real as any crack of lightning or plate tectonics. It was a definite and tangible shift.

I’ll get into all of that, but first you need some back story.

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