Herb Brooks said, “Great moments are born from great opportunity.” These special moments are what make life worth living even though sometimes living can be pretty tough. On July 22nd I will have another opportunity for a great moment as my wheelchair hockey team will get to play a game in the PNC Arena, the home of the Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL. We will be playing against the Hurricanes’ front office staff and, who knows, some current and former players may stop by to watch. Either way, just to be able to play in an NHL Arena is an opportunity most athletes can only dream about.
Now some may say, “Okay so the Fury is playing another exhibition game and are just playing in a bigger place, what’s so special?” Well from a Fury stand point, the game is important because we lost to the Canes’ staff last year and need to redeem ourselves. To me, however, this is more than a game.
My love for hockey came from a childhood admiration of the NHL. When I was 12 years old, hockey wasn’t the topic of any conversations in eastern North Carolina. It was 1994 and I started watching the playoffs, when I discovered Mark Messier. He immediately became my hockey hero and I would play in my driveway pretending to be him leading the Rangers to the Stanley Cup. On the driveway, I pretended I could “skate” with the best in the world. I still wear #11 for that reason. Don’t worry I started bleeding Hurricane Red as soon as they came to North Carolina.
I often tell people that playing wheelchair hockey is the only time in my life that I actually forget I’m in a wheelchair. My secret is that even at 30 years old, I go back to the driveway during games. I imagine being on the ice, wearing skates, and being the best hockey player I can be for those couple of hours. Now that I play goalie, you’ll see me running through the motions of any ice hockey goalie; getting the feel for my crease and making sure everything is right. Some may think my actions are a little crazy, but I don’t mind. My pure love for the sport takes over and everything else fades away.
On July 22nd all my emotions may spill over because so many able-bodied hockey players dream of having this same moment. In 2011-12 there were 511,178 amateur players registered with USA Hockey. On a given night there are a maximum of 600 players (30 teams x 20 players) on NHL game day rosters and these players come from all over the world. Obviously, the odds of playing in the NHL are very low even for able-bodied players, so it’s an amazing opportunity for a person with a disability to play in an NHL Arena. I hope that all of you come to the game and share this special moment with me.
The game will start at 2:00 pm on Sunday, July 22, 2012. Parking and admission are free, but donations are appreciated. Your donations help my teammates and I continue to pursue our dreams. Fans are asked to use the EAST ENTRANCE at the PNC Arena. We will also be retiring the jersey of our teammate who passed away last Fall, Cameron Williams, so be sure to be in your seats at 2:00.