Aspen Sterzer has a motor that seems forever locked into overdrive when he’s on the ice, but he was put in park last season with a career-threatening concussion.
“With the concussion and stuff, it got to a point where it had been so long that I was just like, ‘I don’t know whether or not I’m going to be able to play again,’” said Sterzer, a Kamloops Blazers’ forward.
“In the second game after Christmas against Vancouver [Dec. 29], I took a high hit to the head and I got that concussion and I couldn’t recover. It took forever.
“Four or five months passed and then I finally got cleared to start training again.”
The 19-year-old Canal Flats product experienced dizziness, blurred vision and balance problems when he tried to work out and there was little improvement in the first few months of recovery.
Sterzer slowly began to get better and eventually became symptom-free.
He was cleared by doctors and will play this season with the Blazers.
The centreman returns to the team with an entirely different role than in years past.
There is room to establish himself as a top-six guy, with the Blue and Orange having lost a slew of talented forwards to graduation and professional hockey.
“There was that possibility [that Sterzer would not be back],” Blazers’ general manager Craig Bonner said.
“Now, he’s going to play in some roles he never played in before, with us losing the centre-icemen that we did.
“I have high expectations for him this year.”
The speedster — once referred to as the Tasmanian Devil by Blazer trainer Colin (Toledo) Robinson — said it was tough to sit back and watch his teammates make a run at the Western Conference championship this spring — “I’d just watch the games and hear about them knowing I wasn’t there for the boys.”
Concussions are among the hottest of topics in sports and Sterzer will be under the microscope anytime he’s on the receiving end of a bodycheck.
If No. 11 can stay healthy, he could be in line to have a breakout season. He’s been waiting his entire WHL career to get minutes alongside his team’s best players.
“We had such a deep team and I was on a lower line,” Sterzer said.
“Now, there’s so much opportunity with such a young team this year.
“I feel awesome. I’m so happy to be back.”
— By Marty Hastings, Kamloops This Week