Sunday, February 05, 2017
Rusty Hafner-Awaiting his Turn
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the dreadful tragedy suffered by the Columbus Cottonmouths hockey team. Their bus left the road on the way to Peoria, Illinois. Many of the players and staff members suffered serious injuries in the accident including a former Duke, Rusty Hafner. Andy Bathgate, a former Belleville Bull, was also on the trip.
Hafner was starting his second season with the Cottonmouths. I asked him why and how he ended up in Columbus, Georgia. “Well, it was sort of the typical hockey grapevine thing. My coach at Bowling Green had played with my coach in Columbus, and he recommended me”.
I caught up with Hafner a couple of days ago to get an update on his status, and on the status of the team. When I first reached him, he was waiting at the hospital for some follow-up work on “concussion-like symptoms”, as he described it. A day or two later, he told me that he still had not hit the ice. “I am still kind of beaten up,” he told me. “I did not pass the most recent concussion test”.
In addition to that, there is some concern about Rusty's spleen. A recent CT scan indicated that his spleen is enlarged, and it is just a matter of time before it will return to its normal state. “You only get one spleen,” he told me, “so I had better keep an eye on that too.”
The Cottonmouths have a wonderful “Booster Family” program in place. All of the players regularly visit their booster families to get a few comforts of home, particularly a fine home-cooked dinner. Rusty was on his way to visit his booster family when I reached him.
“The prognosis at the present time is that I might be able to return for the playoffs. But there are so many questions. There are still more tests to be done.” I could tell that he was anxious to get back on the ice. He has accepted the fact that he is in the hands of professional medical people. And that is that.
We tossed around his thoughts on his days in The County. “I had never heard of the place before I arrived, but I loved it there. I stayed at the Greers house, and became good friends with Riley and Brady.” You must remember this is an American kid from Toledo, Ohio, who came north to play a little shinny, at the junior level, and was moved from Carleton Place to Wellington just before the Dukes' run to the Royal Bank Cup. He added: “Those were some of the greatest moments in my hockey career.”
He received his university degree from Bowling Green in Exercise Science, and looks forward to days when he might work as a strength and conditioning coach. Not all athletes complete their degree work at universities. Many football and basketball players leave early in their academic careers to play in the pro ranks. It is not always a wise decision. Rusty is grateful that he stuck it out.
I know that your thoughts and prayers are with him. May he have a speedy recovery.
February 5, 2017