A big fan of the band Metallica, Shawn Mezei thought the bell had tolled for his hockey career.
Mezei -- whose cousin is Mike Mezei, the 2003 Alberta men's amateur golf champion -- was told last year his days playing junior hockey with the Lethbridge Hurricanes were over.
But now he's back.
A mysterious neck ailment forced the burly 19-year-old blueliner from Taber to miss the entire 2003-04 WHL season, save for one game.
"No one really knows what it is exactly. I've seen every chiropractor in Lethbridge pretty much, every massage (therapist). I went to Calgary and got MRIs and X-rays and no one can actually pinpoint it," Mezei said.
Unfortunately, for the 6-ft., 210-pounder, two car crashes over the last three years didn't help matters.
"Between playing hockey -- and I had a couple of car accidents during the season, one in Crowsnest and the following season in Lethbridge -- I never really got over all the banging and crashing," Mezei said.
He said the accidents weren't serious but jarred his neck and inflamed a pinched nerve that has bothered him since he was 15.
"That kind of started it all but with the sport itself, those things just contributed to the problem," said Mezei, whose rugged style of play has taken a toll on his body.
It was so bad people started telling him he'd never play hockey again but Mezei would have none of that.
"A lot of people told me I should quit but I stuck it out and trained hard this summer ... got back into shape and came back this year."
For the first few games this season, Mezei found himself in the press box as a healthy scratch but his perseverance paid off.
"It's just awesome to be back. As soon as we're finished a game, I can't wait for the next one to start. After not playing for a year and a half, I definitely missed hockey quite a bit," he said.
Busy with rehabbing his injury, Mezei didn't get to play golf with his cousin as often as he'd like.
"Golf's kind of a summer hobby for me," said Mezei. "I haven't been out with (Mike) in a long time."