Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Stephenson, 19, retires from hockey

Colton Stephenson’s WHL career is over.
In fact, his hockey career is over.
It shouldn’t have ended like this, but no one ever said life is fair.
“Retired from the game that I love the most,” Stephenson wrote Monday on his Facebook page. “Concussions are a scary thing. Thank you to everyone who was involved in my career. Met a lot of great people, and made the greatest friends. Appreciate what you love to do, cause it’s not your right to be doing it. Gonna miss everyone in Edmonton! Lots of love.”
It’s safe to say that it was a sad day in the camp of the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Stephenson, a 19-year-old centre from Saskatoon, was selected by the Oil Kings in the third-round, 57th overall, of the 2007 bantam draft.
He would go on to play 70 regular-season games — one as a 15-year-old, followed by seasons of 18, one, and 50 games. He didn’t play any games this season.
He wanted to. Oh, did he! But, in the end, he just couldn’t do it.
“My health is most important to me and I felt it was time to retire,” Stephenson told me in a Facebook exchange Monday night. “I have had five concussions since I was 16, and I took a year and a half off from them.
“Walking away from the game I love has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It's gonna be extremely hard for a long time but I know in the long run my decision is for the best.”
While you and I were gnawing on Thanksgiving turkey, Stephenson was back home in Saskatoon.
“I went home for a week over Thanksgiving to talk with my family and on Friday I told the organization my decision,” he wrote.
Prior to going home, he skated for three days — he also said he has been working out — and has been symptom-free. “So,” he noted, “I'm happy I made the decision while I am ahead and have no symptoms (rather) than having them for a significant amount of time,”
During his abbreviated WHL career, Stephenson suffered five concussions. He graciously went over each one for me . . .
1. My first one was my 16-year-old year on Dec. 3. I avoided a check from a Lethbridge d-man and he stuck his elbow out to stop me and caught me on the temple. I finished the shift and didn't even fall down from it.
2. Took a couple weeks off (from the first one) and started skating and went back too early and re-injured it and had to take the (season) off.
3. Then, my 17-year-old year, in exhibition I hit (Medicine Hat forward) Kale Kessy and I knocked him over. Finished my shift and could not recall what had just happened during the last shift. So I took that entire (season) off.
4. Then last (season), playing Kelowna, I finished my check in the corner and my head hit the glass. Knocked my visor out of my helmet. Symptoms only took a week to subside so I was back playing very soon.
5. And my last one we were playing Red Deer in Lacombe (on Sept. 16) and I went to finish my check and he went to counter hit me and caught me right on the chin, knocking me unconscious for a second. I skated off and could not remember the shift.
For now, Stephenson said he doesn’t have any plans.
“I’ll just keep working out to occupy myself,” he told me. “Working out will be my escape.”
Eventually, he said, he “definitely” will be going to school.
Many of his Oil Kings teammates said farewell to Stephenson via Twitter on Monday. Among the messages . . .
Michael St. Croix: All the best @C_Stephenson14 Gonna miss you. Thanks for the memories.
Laurent Brossoit: Going to miss you @C_Stephenson14 best of luck #truebeauty.
Ashton Sautner: Best of luck @C_Stephenson14, you will be missed.
Rhett Rachinski: Sad day. gona miss you @C_Stephenson14 the boys are losing a great guy and teammate. Good luck back in stoon I'll be seeing you on #zombs.
T.J. Foster: Love you @C_Stephenson14. Gonna miss ya buddy.

Taking Note on Twitter

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