Quinton Howden of Oakbank, Man., is going to be drafted into the NHL, maybe even in the first round.
Considered a can’t miss prospect, a big, fast player who’ll be dependable at both ends of the rink, Howden is an 18-year-old with his life ahead of him.
Sure, he’s blessed with size and ability.
But a story from his childhood explains how Howden got to this point better than any stats.
A story of a frightening, freak accident that had doctors suggesting hockey might not be such a good idea, that Quinton might even have trouble walking normally.
“When you look back at the pictures, all those feelings come back again,” Howden’s mother, Crystal, was saying Wednesday.
They’ll probably come flooding back Friday, too, when an NHL GM calls Howden’s name on the draft floor in Los Angeles.
Crystal and her husband Sheldon, have a hard time picturing that moment, even today, as they leave for L.A., along with all four of their kids and a bunch of family friends.
The thought of Quinton playing pro hockey would have seemed preposterous after their son broke his femur when he flipped his tricycle at the age of five.
The break was so bad, doctors feared Quinton might have to live with one leg shorter than the other.
“You wish it was you having to go through what he was going through,” father Sheldon told the Sun.
Quinton was fit with a cast that went from just above his chest to his knee, encompassing both legs, with a steel bar between the knees to keep the legs in exactly the right position.
He’d have to sleep with one leg pointing up in the air, and his parents would have to carry him everywhere.
It soon became apparent, though, that Quinton was as determined a five-year-old as they come.
“He was determined to ride a stupid bike,” Crystal said. “And we’d keep going back to the doctor, because they’d have to fix the bottom of the cast. He was wearing the bottom right out.”
Life in the Howden home is a bit of a blur since, Quinton, the oldest of the four, beating the odds by not only getting back onto skates but becoming an elite player, eventually joining the junior Moose Jaw Warriors.
“I remember we would sit him down to check, as he was growing, to see if his one leg was shorter than the other,” Crystal recalled. “So to see him out there now, it’s a very humbling experience.”
That humility seems to run pretty deep, along with a work ethic passed down through generations.
Even Quinton, who was too young to really appreciate the severity of his condition when the accident happened, has come to realize he’s been given a second chance.
“It’s hard to believe, now,” Howden said. “Every day, I know how lucky I am. I’ve heard about people who break their femurs and some can’t walk anymore. I did come out on the good end.”
Sure, luck played a role.
But there’s more to it.
And you can bet whatever quality Howden has that got him through that childhood accident will serve him well as he tries to crack the NHL.
“I had a dream that I wanted to play in the NHL one day, and nothing was going to stop me from getting to my dream,” he said. “I just kept persevering.”
To the point where NHL Central Scouting has him ranked 19th among North American skaters eligible for the draft.
“His threat is his speed,” the scouting service’s Peter Sullivan said. “If he gets a step on anybody, he’s gone.”
How ironic is that?
“It’s probably going to be pretty breathtaking,” Sheldon said of the moment his son’s name is called. “There’s been the odd time when I just sit back and say, ‘Oh, my goodness. It’s really happening.’
“Whatever team takes him, I think they’ll be very happy. He’s going to give them 100%.”
Not much doubt of that, I’d say.
Contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org or 632-2788.