Before coming to Babson, I was nervous like how I assume most kids were on their first day of college. I was nervous about getting back in the classroom, meeting new people and fitting in with my team. I had heard horror stories from older friends at other schools. Things like freshmen getting hazed and not getting along with teammates or roommates.
All of these fears and concerns quickly went away as soon as I stepped on campus. On move-in day, my roommate and I were greeted by a group of upperclassmen on the team. They welcomed us to Babson and made sure we were all set. When I met one of the senior captains, he introduced himself and said we're excited to have you.
As if I needed any more reassurance how special this team was, within my first month on campus I needed to have emergency surgery to have my appendix removed. As I sat in my hospital bed in more pain than I had ever been in, I was visited not only by coach Rice but my whole team who I had barely just met. It was a great comfort to my parents, who were still driving from Cleveland, to know I was not alone. I knew Babson was special.
When I was forced to retire after a series of concussions, I was heartbroken. I knew it was the right decision, but it was hard to deal with at the time. I don't think I had ever cried that much before. Pretty much everything I had in my life was in some way because of hockey. I was recruited to Babson for hockey. All my closest friends were on the team. Even my best friends from home I had played hockey with. It felt like for a moment I was losing my whole identity. Again in my time of need, my teammates, coaches and trainer were there for me. They assured me everything would be okay and work out just fine.
Even after everything that happened, I still consider myself extremely lucky. I had a great group of friends, I was at a great school, and I had a team and coach that still valued my opinion even though I could no longer help the way I was used to. When coach Rice asked me if I wanted to return my senior year as a student assistant coach, I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted to be involved with my teammates and I felt that I could still be of value to the team even though I wasn't playing. I wanted to make an impact on the younger guys just like how I was influenced by my upperclassmen.
Coaching was a great experience. I was able to stay involved with my team and it gave me a different perspective on the game. It proved to be challenging at times. Trying to teach 13 freshmen how our systems work can be difficult, but I learned a lot. Each player learns his own way, and there's no better feeling than seeing a player improve or succeed because of something you taught them. It's the next best thing to the feeling of scoring a goal.
One thing I wish I knew when I was a player was to not get defensive when a coach criticizes or yells at you. This can be hard since you want to believe that what you are doing is right, but it's important to be honest with yourself. If a coach is telling you something it's because they want to see you and the team succeed.
Finally, thank you to coach Rice for giving me an opportunity to stay with the team. Thanks to Rick Burr for keeping me sane during all my recovery time. Thank you to my teammates and friends for being there for me. Thank you to my parents and family for always supporting and believing in me.