Kieran Block embarks on a new hockey experience
Kieran Block didn't realize how much he missed the sport of hockey until he started to play it again.
In the summer of 2007, an unfortunate set of circumstances appeared to have brought his playing career to an end. Having finished his rookie season with the University of Alberta after four years with the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers, Block went cliff jumping by a lake near Jasper, Alta.
On his fourth jump, he landed in a shallow spot in the water and severely broke bones in both his legs after crashing into the rocks and sand. At that point, his playing career ended – at least, the stand-up portion of it.
While on the recovery trail, Block ended up getting back in touch with one of his old childhood friends in Matt Cook, then a member of Canada's National Sledge Team.
Cook introduced Block to sledge hockey and took the former WHLer to his first skate in the sport in January 2010. When Cook lost his courageous battle with cancer just a few months later, Block met many of Cook's friends from the national team at his funeral.
Block took part in one more introductory skating session in the summer of 2010 before deciding to join the Edmonton Impact.
He progressed in the sledge game to the point where he received an invite to Canada's National Sledge Team's selection camp in Barrie, Ont., in September, and was the lone player without previous national team experience to crack the final roster.
"I had a big grin on my face," said Block of finding out he would be wearing the Team Canada jersey this season. "I was feeling pretty high and mighty."
After his accident, Block admits he was hesitant to get back into hockey.
"When it was taken away as quickly as it was, it left a really big hole that I had to fill," said Block. "I think some part of me was scared that, if that happened again, it would be just really tough and really hard for me."
In the regular game, Block made some unique memories playing for the Tigers from 20.
He was a key member of the team as a defensive forward, helping shut down opposing team's top lines as the Tigers became one the WHL's most exciting and highest scoring teams.
In Block's first season, the Tigers ended a five-year playoff drought, and in the 2003-04 campaign, the team won the WHL championship and advanced to the Memorial Cup in Kelowna, B.C. In his final season, he was a key leader as an overager.
"Probably (the) number one (memory) has got to be winning the Western League championship," said Block, who played 253 regular season games for the Tigers, collecting 21 goals, 44 assists and a plus-29 rating. "There are not too many things I can compare in my life that measure up to that.
fI feel pretty fortunate that I got to spend four years of my life in Medicine Hat learning the game of hockey. It has definitely helped me in my life now."
After graduating from the Tigers, Block found a new hockey family with the Golden Bears. He might have only played 17 games with the U of A as a rookie, but the importance of that team showed when he was recovering from his cliff jumping injuries.
Block would go see the team's training staff after classes, and they worked on him for close to seven months. He would skate at the beginning of practice with the team, and eventually got to the point he took part in one or two whole practices.
He even took a piece of the Golden Bears with him as he embarked on the latest chapter of his hockey story – when he attended the sledge team selection camp, Block wore his gloves from his U of A days.
"I stuck around, and I was a part of the team (the Golden Bears) really for the next couple of years," said Block. "It just helped me to really get everything back under my feet and get my life going again after my accident."
He also took time to reflect on his hockey and life voyage over the past decade.
"It has been a journey," said Block. "I realize that just keeping a positive mindset and having something to work for and having a goal really helped me get through those tough times."