Almost 22 months to the day, Colorado Avalanche prospect Joey Hishon was finally back playing the game that he loves.
Hishon was in the Lake Erie Monsters’ lineup last Tuesday for their game against the Toronto Marlies, his first as a professional hockey player and his first since suffering a head injury during the 2011 Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cup.
“It was an unbelievable feeling,” Hishon said after the game. “I’ve been waiting a very long time for this so to be back playing hockey, it’s what I love to do and it’s my passion. It’s an amazing feeling.”
The Avalanche selected Hishon in the first round (17th overall) of the 2010 Entry Draft after he had three solid seasons with the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League. In 2011, he was in the middle of another great season – leading the Attack in scoring in the regular season with 87 points (37 goals and 50 assists) – before his hockey career took a pause.
Late in the third period of Owen Sound’s first game of the Memorial Cup against Kootenay, Hishon was hit in the head by an opposing player’s elbow and fell to the ice moments later after trying to make it to his team’s bench. After spending a few minutes down on the ice, he was able to skate back to his team’s locker room with some help.
That May 21, 2011 game was the last that Hishon had played in as he had been dealing with concussion-like symptoms from the hit since then. It wasn’t until this season that Hishon resumed off-ice workouts and was finally able to practice for the first time.
The 21-year-old center had spent all of last season as a member of the Monsters, Colorado’s American Hockey League affiliate, but while his teammates were moving on with their careers, he was stuck watching from the seats.
“It was bittersweet,” Hishon said. “I’m happy for them but at the same time, frustrated for myself when I played with them my whole career and saw how well they were doing and wanted to be in that situation and wanted to get my chance.”
After he was cleared to begin working out again this season, Hishon went through several weeks of tough training that was led by assistant coach David Oliver and athletic trainer Brent Woodside to get himself back in shape and game ready.
He was finally cleared to play in the middle of March and was on the ice for the Monsters’ March 19 game versus the division-rival Marlies at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
“I was nervous the whole time,” Hishon said of his first game in nearly two years. “I really had to focus on my breathing because you can let your emotions get the best of you when you are that nervous, but you just have to move forward and get through it.”
Hishon finished the game with three shots on goal and saw a good share of ice-time in both even strength and power play situations.
“Great to see him for his first game,” said Lake Erie head coach Dean Chynoweth of Hishon after the game, which ended in a 4-2 loss to Toronto. “He hasn’t played in two years so it was great to get him in the lineup. He showed some great poise with the puck.”
Hishon said that he is very appreciative of all the support that he has received over the years from family, friends and fans, and that he is excited to be back playing the game that he had missed so much.
“I definitely appreciate the game a lot more than I used to,” he said. “I always did appreciate the game, but you never know how much you missed it until it is gone completely.”
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