Ten Years Later…

Ten years ago tonight was a night that forever changed my life.

18 year old me left work (after school at a law office) around 5:15pm, headed home, grabbed some dinner and then got in the car to head to Hartford, CT for hockey practice. I played on a Midget AAA program based out of Newington and Cromwell, CT. It was our last week before holiday break and we had just come off a big tournament win in New Jersey.

My car was in the shop for an oil change so my mom let me borrow her car for the evening. We were on the ice from 8-9:30pm. After practice I showered, threw my gear in the trunk and left the rink for the 1 hour 15 minute drive home. I pulled up to the light to turn on to I-91 North and popped my favorite CD into the CD player (Linkin Park, I know I’m dating myself). Then my life changed forever.

While sitting at a red light, I was rear ended by someone who had fallen asleep at the wheel. He hit me while going approximately 50mph. My car was pushed clear across the intersection and into oncoming traffic. Luckily, it was 10:15 at night and no one was coming. My head was shaken back and forth and hit the headrest so hard that it bent the seat in half. I was knocked unconscious, out for an unknown period of time. The trunk of the car was completely impacted into the body. One of the last memories I have of that night is calling my mom and letting her know that I was “going to be home late, I got in an accident but I have to go because the police are here”.

That accident ended my hockey career and started a 3 year odyssey of doctors, lawyers and post-concussion syndrome. I went from being at the top of my class to barely graduating from high school, missing 50 days of school in four months. I struggled through my freshman year of college (academically and socially). I spent countless hours with neurologists, psychologists and psychiatrists. I still have huge memory gaps from high school – Senior Year? Prom? Graduation? Various other events and years of time that happened in high school? They don’t really exist in my mind other than the knowledge that something like that happened and I was there.

I am sharing this story as a means of recognizing and celebrating the ten year anniversary that changed my life. This story is not a sob story, rather a celebration of all that life is and all that you can become when life knocks you down. So what happened next?

I refused to let this event define who I was and was I was capable of.

After having a GPA of 2.45 my freshman year, I graduated from Notre Dame in 2009 with a 3.1 – the result of 3 years of 3.67 work in the classroom.

I spent five years with the Notre Dame Hockey Program as a student assistant – spending every extra minute I had at the hockey rink, and doing whatever task the coaching and support staff needed done. In five years at Notre Dame, I received a CCHA Championship Ring (2009), a National Finalist Trophy (2008) and a jersey as recognition of my work and dedication to the program.

I parlayed my work in the classroom and with the hockey team at Notre Dame into a Graduate Assistant position with the University of Massachusetts. After two years in Amherst, I received an M.S. degree in Sport Management and turned the Director of Hockey Operations/Video Coordinator into a valued asset on the coaching staff and a full time position at the school.

In the Summer of 2012, I left Amherst to become the Assistant Coach at Colby College. I have spent three years living out my dreams coaching and recruiting for a college hockey program. I work for a great school and am surrounded by great people both on our team and at our school.

Why do I coach college hockey? I coach to help young men have the opportunity that I never did. I want them to appreciate every moment they have in the game because you never know when it’s going to be taken away from you – and you never know how long and hard you’re going to have to fight to get back to where you were.

Ten years ago, I was involved in a violent car accident that forever changed my life. I am convinced that I never would have been a hockey coach if I had been able to continue my playing career. The fight and the climb back from ten years ago tonight has been long and never easy, but the lessons I’ve learned and the people I’ve met have made me a better person. Events and circumstances in life happen for a reason. You can either let them define you or you can take the reins and make your life into what you want to become. The choice is yours.

2 Responses to Ten Years Later…

  1. coachnye says:

    Good for you Coach Chris-Hit a bump in the road and turn it into something positive! Good lesson learn reading your story.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Coach Nye

  2. Daniel Cheney says:

    inspiring. Certainly appreciate your emails and drills. All the best for a merry holiday and a great new year. Coach dan

    Date: Mon, 15 Dec 2014 23:00:07 +0000 To: dcheney@sympatico.ca

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