By: Monty Mosher
Brendan Childerley is all about gratitude. What he isn't about is self-pity.
Childerley has much to celebrate. Living in Fredericton, and the operative word is living, the former St. Thomas Tommies and Acadia Axemen hockey forward appreciates everyone who helped keep him alive when he was felled by a heart attack during last year's AUS playoffs.
The Stratford, Ont., native fell ill at the end of the first overtime period during a semifinal game against the St. Francis Xavier X-Men. Before long he was in cardiac arrest.
Doctors, trainers, paramedics, even a cardiologist attending the game, worked to resuscitate him. He later required surgery in Halifax to clear a blockage.
Later, Childerley got to thank all the people who had a hand in saving him.
He politely declines to revisit his medical episode. Past is past and a full life awaits him at 25. He'll focus on that.
He's fully aware, and eternally grateful, for winning the lottery that night in Wolfville. The right people, and a defibrillator, gave him the winning numbers.
Hockey is gone at the highest level. He might have played pro, at least that was the hope, but if that's all he lost he can live comfortably for another half century or more without a serious regret.
A business student, he was able to graduate from Acadia and returned to New Brunswick to work and continue his recovery.
"I feel great," he said this week. "I'm very fortunate to be in the shape that I am."
Childerley made a compelling story long before the events of his final varsity season.
He played for Sault Ste. Marie, Owen Sound and Brampton in the OHL before embarking on his varsity career with the Tommies, where he became the captain and an academic all-Canadian.
But St. Thomas folded the hockey team at the end of the 2015-16 season to save money, making the eligible players free-agents. Childerley found a lifeline in the Axemen.
In his time at Acadia, he had 11 goals and eight assists in 30 games.
Axemen head coach Darren Burns liked the character he was getting in Childerley long before he wore an Axemen jersey.
Childerley paid a visit to Acadia for last weekend's Homecoming festivities.
"What I can tell you he has always been a leader and it was a privilege to have him in our program," said Burns. "He is an exceptional role model and he never really looked back afters last year's medical scare.
"I believe we all learned so much from him and his family about dealing with a very adverse situation. As a community member, coach and most importantly as a parent I learned many valuable lessons from the Childerley family that I will never forget."
It's tough for Childerley that he didn't get to finish the season on the ice with his teammates. The Axemen went on to take the bronze medal at the U Sports nationals.
"For me, it was a great experience," he said. "I've got nothing but good things to say about Acadia and the hockey program. They are top notch. I'm not going to dwell on the outcome. I'm going to be thankful for where I'm at and go from there."
A "freak accident" is all he wants to say about the night in question now. He feels better now and that's plenty.
He worked for Molson in Fredericton for consecutive summers. He's moved on to other work more recently.
Losing hockey hurts, but not as much as the alternative.
"This year I'll take it slow and see what happens. I can definitely see myself getting into some coaching down the line. I have been helping with a couple of hockey schools here in town
"But as far as playing goes, I haven't played yet. I was fortunate in the summer to skate on my own and with a couple of buddies. Just goofing around. I'll never be able to get back to the level I was at, but just being able to be on the ice … is a blessing."
His hockey friendships have helped sustain him. He never felt alone during the illness and the months since.
"I was with those guys at St. Thomas for three years and the guys at Acadia were there for me when I needed them the most. I definitely consider all of them my brothers and really good friends and I keep in touch with quite a few of them."
He's got more perspective for his age than most.
"I got to play for 20 years. The game made me a more well-rounded person and allowed me to mature. I think just by looking back that the game gave me more than I could ever give back. To dwell over something like that is crazy, really.
"Maybe there were a couple of years left maybe to live out my dreams. Maybe I'd have had a chance to go somewhere and play. But I'm not going to sit here and think about the what ifs. There are a lot of what ifs that could have ended a lot worse."