Battochio battles back from illness

TERRY KOSHAN, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 12:16 PM ET

THERE'S A sense of exuberance in Danny Battochio's voice on the phone from Ottawa and it's not just because the 67's goalie has been a big part of his team's success in the 2005 Ontario Hockey League playoffs. That Battochio is a part of the 67's at all is enough to buoy the Sudbury native's outlook on life.

"I'm cherishing this chance I have," Battochio, 19, said. "I'm glad I'm living life to the fullest because you never know what can happen. I've been through a lot."

Uncertainty struck Battochio on Christmas Day, 2003. In the wee hours of the morning, Battochio suffered a seizure and when he was not feeling better later in the day, went to hospital. There, doctors discovered Battochio had an arteriovenous malformation, behind his left eye, and it caused the seizure. Battochio said blood was not able to flow properly through a bunch of smaller veins.

"I remember being in the hospital that day with my dad (Cesar) and asking him a lot of questions," Battochio said. "I was wondering if I would play again. I felt pretty empty."

Battochio had an eight-hour operation in January 2004 and missed the rest of the 2003-04 season. But he was lucky.

"The doctors said if it had been on the inside my brain they could have hit other things when they went in to get it," Battochio said.

Battochio has had no trouble since the surgery and has been told by doctors the problem should not re-appear. He returned to the ice a few months after the surgery but had to wait until last September to resume his junior hockey career. With a renewed sense of being, Battochio was great for the 67's during the regular season, and is the club's candidate for the OHL's Red Tilson Trophy, awarded annually to the league's most outstanding player. Battochio, who endured shoulder problems during the season, played in 40 games and put together a 24-10-3 record with a 2.95 goals-against average.

With Battochio tending goal for every Ottawa game in the playoffs, the 67's are poised to eliminate his home-town Wolves. Ottawa has a 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference semi-final with Game 5 tonight.

On top of everything, Battochio has been studying police foundations at Algonquin College.

PROUD PARENTS

"We're just as proud of him for having a full course load," Cesar Battochio said. "We didn't know where (Danny's health scare) was going to take us, but he has matured a lot. He was determined to get back (to hockey) and we have to thank (coach) Brian Kilrea and the 67's because they stood by him all the time. They told Danny there was a place for him if he was capable of coming back."

In his 28 years behind the 67's bench, Kilrea said only one other 67's player has provided similar inspiration.

"It was when Grant Marshall returned from a broken neck (in the early 1990s)," Kilrea said. "For Danny to battle back and be as good as he is, most people don't realize (what he has endured). He has been the MVP of our team."


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