Saturday, February 25, 2006

Neck injury ends Colley's career

Kevin Colley's one NHLer very few hockey fans ever had a chance to see.

At age 27, the native of New Haven, Conn., was 16 games into his first NHL season when he fell head first into the boards after colliding with the Washington Capitals' Jamie Heward.

That was on Jan. 31. A week later, as other NHLers prepared to head overseas during the Olympic break, Colley had surgery for the second time on what was determined to be a broken neck.

Yesterday, after averaging just more than four minutes of ice time a game in his debut season, Colley called an end to a hockey career that had seen him play for 13 different teams in the last eight seasons.

Undrafted after two productive junior campaigns, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Colley was a longshot to ever make the NHL simply because of his size and relative talent level. Gritty and hardworking, he may never have been big enough to play the type of game he did, but he did — and it took him all the way to hockey's highest level.

For 16 games.

Former New York Islander and teammate of Colley's, Steve Webb, puts it much more eloquently than I ever could:
I was very fortunate to get to play with a guy with such heart and determination. When we played together Kevin used to talk to me about what it is like to play in “the show” as he would put it, and I remember him talking about what a thrill it would be to get just one game. This is all he wanted to accomplish at that time. So it was great to see him in his first game against the Rangers.

Like any other person who has a competitive spirit such as his, once he got one game under his belt he then craved a second, and after that a third, until he get to the point where he wanted to contribute every game any way he could.

Kevin was willing to do anything to keep himself in the line-up. Hit the biggest guy on the other team, fight the other team's tough guy even though he was out weighed by 50-60 pounds and give all he had every shift. I guess that is why he wanted to get up and skate off the ice himself, because in the back of his mind he wasn’t thinking of the injury but what was going through his mind was the thought of losing his job, the job that took him so long to land in the NHL.

I guess I have a place in my heart for guys that take the long way to reach their dreams. I just want to wish Kevin a speedy and healthy recovery. We all hope to see him back on the ice soon with that devilish look in his eyes.
I know of a couple of guys from back home taking 'the long way' right now, and it's hard to imagine how it would feel to come so far only to lose it all. That said, I've got a feeling we'll be seeing more of Colley in and around hockey circles for years to come.

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