Danny Battochio returns to his hometown of Sudbury tonight to start in goal for the Ottawa 67's. That's a major accomplishment for a young man who nearly lost his life last Christmas.
While home for the holidays during his rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League, Battochio suffered a seizure on Christmas morning.
Later at the hospital, the diagnosis was terrible. He had suffered an arterio-venous malformation, a weakening of an artery or a vein, which can cause a seizure, stroke or death.
In late January, he had surgery to repair a vein located behind his left eye, near his brain, and he did not play for the rest of the season.
Battochio had turned 18 just four days prior to the seizure and had never really experienced any major health setbacks.
"It's gotten me to think that you've got to live your life one day at a time and that I can't take anything for granted," says Battochio. "I thought I was on top of the world. You feel invincible, then suddenly you wake up and all this other stuff is going on."
Battochio arrived in Ottawa as an unproven goalie at last September's training camp, but quickly won over the coaching staff with his solid play and agility.
He was on top of his game last December, receiving the bulk of playing time, while Lukas Mensator was at the world junior championships.
Battochio had played a stretch of five games in which he was wonderful.
Then came the seizure.
UNDER THE KNIFE
After further testing and consultation with brain surgeons, delicate surgery was performed in January at the Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus.
Doctors told the young goalie and his family that the surgery would correct the weakened artery and that he would be able to return to play high-level hockey.
Battochio, in fact, returned to the ice two months after the surgery in March and worked closely with 67's goalie coach Tom Dempsey.
"Right now, I'm feeling real good," said Battochio. "There have been no side effects so far."
He credits support from his family, friends and 67's fans for bringing him full circle -- as the 67's starter tonight.
While he recovered from surgery in hospital, a huge banner signed by 67's fans was delivered to his room.
"I know a lot of people want to see me do well," he said. "Everybody has been so supportive.
"It has motivated me and helped me through."