Hockey is a hard sport. Anyone who’s played at any level can tell you the toll it takes, and the higher level of competition, the more players ask of their bodies.
When a player announces that they are retiring from the sport due to injury sustained in play, it comes like a kick in the gut. Not just because your team has lost a valuable piece of their lineup, not just because an athlete you’ve enjoyed watching is suffering, but because for a moment, you put yourself in their skates. You wonder how it would feel to lose that part of your life.
Out of courtesy for the team and Adam’s privacy, I decided not to publish anything about the injury until the Stampede made it public. Injuries can be a tricky business in hockey, and as much as I appreciate being able to inform NZIHL fans about current news, I will never do so at the expense of a player’s private life.
The week dragged on with no word from the Stampede, which left some of us hoping for the best and others fearing the worst.
This morning, Stampede Captain Bert Haines had the following message for the public:
It is with deep hearts that we announce the immediate player retirement of American import Adam Blanchette. Our top defenseman for the past 2 seasons, Adam was recently involved in a physical play, sustaining a knock to the head and subsequent concussion. Unfortunately Adam has suffered a few concussions throughout his career, which has stretched across North America, Europe and Australia/New Zealand.
Adam brought with him to the ice a fierce competitive streak and amazing playmaking abilities. In addition, he also brought a great attitude and personality in the locker room. His presence on the ice will be missed. However, it is with great news that Adam will stay on with the team in a coaching/leadership role to help continue to grow and contribute the Stampede!!
Please take this opportunity to join me in thanking Adam for his contributions as a player (also in coaching junior hockey) and welcoming him as he continues to coach/provide leadership for our team.
Let’s go Stampede!
That must have hurt to write, and I appreciate the Stampede’s honesty. The link above goes to the Stampede’s Facebook page, where I encourage OTF readers to leave their thoughts and well wishes for Adam Blanchette.
The fact that Blanchette is staying with the team in a leadership capacity is a heartwarming silver lining to a horrible story that I wish I didn’t have to write. Post-Concussion Syndrome is a nightmare for those suffering it and Blanchette is absolutely making the right decision to focus on his own health and safety, even at the expense of hockey.
And it will be a rough game for Stampede fans, possibly a weird one, considering how used to Blanchette’s presence we’ve become on the ice. He was particularly visible on the penalty kill during last weekend’s games against the Dunedin Thunder–I recall a particularly triumphant moment where he broke up the Thunder’s play with a skillful poke-check.
Sometimes it’s those little things that stick in your memory–the little signs of a good defensive player who does things right.
I’ll be writing a retrospective piece on Blanchette’s storied career later this week, and I’d encourage anyone who wants to share memories or experiences they had with Blanchette in the NZIHL and AIHL to leave a comment here.
Get well, Adam, and this Stampede fan is glad you’re sticking around in Queenstown. All of our staff at OTF send our regards.