Wojtek Wolski: The ice hockey player who will star at the Winter Olympics 16 months after breaking his neck

By Alasdair Hooper

With no NHL players going to this year’s Winter Olympic games in PyeongChang the men’s tournament will be bereft of the world’s top ice hockey talent.

While that is obviously a shame for fans there are still some amazing stories on show.

One such example is Canadian forward Wojtek Wolski.

 

The 31-year-old enjoyed 11 seasons as an NHL player, with five different teams, before deciding to leave North America in 2013 to play hockey in the Russian League – the KHL.

Tragically in October 2016 the left-winger made headlines across the ice hockey world – not for his play – but because of a freak accident that could have claimed his life.

While playing for his team Metallurg Magnitogorsk, against Barys Astana, Wolski attempted to dive across the ice in order get the puck and help his team out defensively.

It was a daring move but one you see on a regular basis in competitive ice hockey.

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Unfortunately, while he managed to reach the puck, he continued to slide across the surface.

He ended up colliding headfirst into the sideboards with an opposing player on top of him.

Immediately after the impact everyone knew something was drastically wrong, as the forward lay motionless on the ice with the crowd aghast.

Wolski suffered a concussion and had broken his neck.

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The severe injuries kept the forward out of the remainder of that KHL season and he was advised by medics to quit the sport.

But remarkably, less than a year after the horrendous collision with the boards, he was back skating ready for the new KHL season.

As it turns out that was just the start of the immense comeback and wonderful storyline.

On Thursday, January 11 he was named as part of Canada’s Winter Olympics team.

Just 16 months after breaking his neck he is now preparing to skate and help his country try to win the ice hockey gold medal.

“Exactly one year ago today I laid in a hospital bed after having surgery to fix a broken neck,” Wolski’s wrote on his Instagram page.

“Today I am so proud and excited to have been named to Canada’s Olympic Hockey Team.

“I look at the picture of me in the hospital and can’t help but cry. Mostly tears of happiness, but I am filled with so many emotions about what I have overcome.

“I could never have imagined that I would be so lucky one year later.”

Exactly one year ago today I laid in a hospital bed after having surgery to fix a broken neck. Today I am so proud and excited to have been named to Canada’s Olympic Hockey Team. I look at the picture of me in the hospital and can’t help but cry. Mostly tears of happiness, but I am filled with so many emotions about what I have overcome. I could never have imagined that I would be so lucky one year later. I want to take this moment to thank everyone for all the amazing support along the way. Without my family and friends, I don’t think any of it would be possible. @jesselammers has been an absolute superstar through all of it. Thank you and I Love you. When I say family and friends that most definitely includes @matt_nichol @mgivelos @mikeprebeg @sk8onhockey @marylalancette @dmartella12 @carnz74 @biosteelsports , Dr.Forman, Dr.Ford, Dr.Galea . This amazing group helped me literally get back on my feet and then back on the ice. Absolutely thrilled to be representing Canada and defending Gold in Pyeongchang. @hockeycanada @teamcanada @olympics #olympics

A post shared by Wojtek Wolski (@wojtekwolski) on

Even without the star-studded NHL names shining at this year’s Winter Olympics, Wolksi’s story is proof there are still remarkable stories out there.

It’s an incredible tale of resilience and fighting back to play against all odds.

Even if Canada don’t manage to claim the gold medal it doesn’t matter – Wolksi has arguably already won.

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