Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Brockport has picked up forward Ray Tremblay for the upcoming season. The forward spent last year with Division III Northland College where he posted 10 points in 27 games. He hails from Peachland, British Columbia and has an interesting story about his hockey career. This article ran in the Kelowna, BC newspaper a year ago....

Northland Hockey Recruit Recovers from Broken Back

The moment Ray Tremblay’s life took a drastic turn he knew something was wrong. Tremblay, a 20-year-old playing for Beaver Valley’s Junior B hockey team, was spending Christmas holiday at his grandmother’s house in Midway. Walking along the banks of the Kettle River, Tremblay slipped and fell, fracturing two bones in his back and throwing a promising future into question.

“I thought it was pretty serious right off the bat,” said Tremblay this week. “It knocked the wind out of me and I couldn’t get up. I fell kind of funny and I guess the spine just kind of gave way.”

Two bones in Tremblay’s spine were fractured. Months of painful rehabilitation lay ahead. Surgery was an option. A possible college hockey career was now in doubt. He couldn’t stop thinking of his current team, a young squad the veteran Tremblay was trying to help lead. When the dust had settled and after Tremblay had spent a couple of painstaking nights in the Grand Forks’ hospital, the Westside native learned that he had two options: Surgery which would likely mean never playing hockey again, or a back brace and months with virtually no movement.

Tremblay, a Westside Minor Hockey product, chose the road that would allow him to play hockey again. “I could have had surgery but I would have lost a lot of mobility in my back and might not have played hockey again,” he said of his choice to try and allow the back to heal.

“The first month or so I was pretty much in bed 23 hours a day. I could get up for about 15 minutes before it would get too sore.”

Tremblay’s ordeal began last Christmas. Incredibly, the 5-foot-10 forward is now back skating and back near 100 per cent just six months later. But it seems like much longer to Tremblay and his family. His father Cary was there when the accident happened and was with his son along the way. “It scares the hell out of you,” said Cary. “The first thing you worry about with a spinal injury is is he going to be able to walk. Then you worry about is he going to be able to do the things he loves to do. There were really hard days when you just didn’t know. There were setbacks when things didn’t feel right.”

Eventually things did start to feel right. After progressing through rehab, Tremblay was able to start walking with a back brace more and more. Then in March the back brace was gone and he was able to start walking around without it. But those months, lying in bed not able to move, are still fresh in his mind and probably always will be.

“It was tough spending everyday in bed,” said Tremblay. “But I couldn’t do anything about it, I couldn’t change anything. I had to keep positive. I didn’t cheat or do anything I wasn’t supposed to. And in the end it worked out.”

Before the accident Tremblay was the leader on Beaver Valley’s young team, lighting up the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. In Beaver Valley’s first 35 games he recorded 23 goals, 19 assists and 102 penalty minutes. The team was looking to make a run at the championship.

“Ray’s injury was devastating to our team,” said coach Terry Jones. I thought we had a chance to win the league. With him getting hurt we never recovered. The thing with Ray is his leadership was incredible. I can’t stress enough how important he was to our team. Once the severity of his injury was determined I knew Ray would make a full recovery. He’s very determined.”

That determination, work ethic and character was enough that seven NCAA schools were talking to him about a possible scholarship. Once he suffered the fractured back, several teams dropped out. But not Northland College, a small Division III NCAA school in Ashland, Wisconsin. Northland followed Tremblay’s progress and eventually he committed to attend the College. The school, like many Division III schools south of the border, has a focus on education first. Tremblay will major in physical education and minor in athletic coaching while continuing to play hockey.

“I’m at a point in my life where I’m ready to get my life started and the education part is a really big factor,” he said. “And it’s great that I get to play hockey. I’m excited. That (college) is what I played for, it’s always what I wanted to do so I can’t wait to get there.”

They say everything in life is a lesson. Certainly going through something that Tremblay has taught him more about life and about himself than anything else to this point. Now fully cleared to be back playing the sport that he loves, Tremblay has emerged with new insight.“I just learned not to take things for granted,” he said. “You never know. Maybe tomorrow I might break my leg, so everyday, every chance I get to play hockey, I have to make the best of it, that’s for sure.”