Commentary

Carle: Life off the ice doesn't lack hockey

Updated: October 24, 2008, 11:57 AM ET
By David Carle | Special to ESPN.com

My name is David Carle and I am an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Denver. I am from Anchorage, Alaska, and attended high school at Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault, Minn. I will be writing this blog during the 2008-09 NCAA ice hockey season.

I am writing to you a few days after the four-month anniversary of my forced retirement from hockey and my diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). In short, the disease is a thickening of the heart wall that during strenuous activity increases the likelihood of sudden death. My story was well documented in the media as to how things took place, so I will not go into depth on that. However, I would like to acknowledge two acts of human kindness by two different institutions. First, the University of Denver's athletic department, for honoring my four-year scholarship. I have heard of many stories of schools not honoring scholarships and am very thankful Denver chose to act the way it did.

Second, the Tampa Bay Lightning organization, for drafting me late in the summer's NHL draft so I could one day tell my grandkids I was drafted into the National Hockey League. Both acts touched me in ways I cannot describe, and am so grateful for both of their actions, as they are life-changing.

Now on to what I am doing today. I am on board with the Denver hockey coaching staff as a student-assistant coach. What does that involve? I will hopefully be able to answer that for you over the coming months because, to be honest, I don't fully know and neither does our coaching staff. I am in a position that has never been taken on before and, in essence, the staff and I will be forging a new path, something that in its own way is and will be pretty exciting. The main focus of my job right now is to get to know the guys and to get involved in college life -- because I still am a freshman in college, something that is a transition process in itself. Today, though, I am in charge of our two warm-up drills, which is a pretty big step. I have never run a drill in my life, and really had to brainstorm hard last night to think of a couple of good ones. Aside from that, on the coaching side of things, I offer little tid bits to the coaching staff when I see something that can help the team. During games, I will watch from the press box with the other coaches, taking face-off and special teams stats. Between periods, I will again offer up anything I see that can help the team win.

There is one last thing I would like to talk about this week, a very sad moment in the hockey world. Last week, Alexei Cherepanov passed away while playing in a game in Russia. I would like to offer my thoughts and prayers to his family, as I cannot imagine what they have been going through. Although it is not certain of the specific reasons behind Cherepanov's passing, it is known that it was a heart condition. It made me feel all the more fortunate that my condition was caught, and it encouraged me to get back out there to encourage other athletes to go get tested.

I was thinking about it today, and I feel that only positives can come out of getting tested. If you get tested, you either have something discovered or you don't. So let's look at both scenarios: You have something, but now you know about it. Your lifestyle may be restricted, like mine, but at least you are aware of the problem and can learn to live with it. If you don't have something, that's great. You can continue on the path you were on previously without a concern of how your heart will act.

Thanks and until next time,

David Carle

David Carle is a student-assistant coach for the University of Denver men's hockey team. He will be writing for ESPN.com throughout the 2008-09 season.