Greeted by a boisterous welcoming party 75 people strong at the Calgary airport yesterday, Colton Yellow Horn's pain began to subside.
His neck was feeling better after he was hit from behind and sent crashing head-first into the boards during Sunday's gold-medal final at the world under-18 hockey championships in Pilsen, Czech Republic.
And the sting from losing 5-1 to a speedy Team USA was starting to go away, too.
"This makes it worthwhile," Yellow Horn said, taking in the sights and sounds around him.
"There's disappointment with a silver but the U.S. played together the last three or four years, that whole team.
"We came together in a few weeks and gave them a good shot.
"It was a great experience."
An experience that ended with something of a party at the arrivals level.
Yellow Horn, nicknamed the Brocket Rocket, was greeted by two busloads of people who'd made the trip from the Peigan reserve. He was presented with an eagle feather and greeted by beating drums.
"I didn't expect anything like this," said Yellow Horn, whose silver medal was dangling from his neck.
"I didn't know anything was going to happen until my dad told me upstairs there was a big group of people and then I heard the drums and stuff. Then I got really excited."
Fortunately, it appears he'll fully recover from the injuries sustained after being drilled from behind by American forward Justin Mercier late in the game.
Still, Yellow Horn -- who turns 18 next month -- walked gingerly toward the well-wishers.
"A little sore in my neck and my back but that's about it," said the WHL's Eastern Conference second team all-star, who collected 35 goals and 86 points in the regular season.
Yellow Horn doesn't harbour any ill will toward Mercier, though he pointed out he doesn't want to see any replays of the hit.
"I don't think he really meant to do it," he said. "Accidents happen, I think.
"Stuff like that happens every now and then in hockey ... You just hope it doesn't happen."
Still, he admitted there were anxious moments.
"The worst possible things go through your mind when you're on the ice like that. I was just really scared," he said.
"But I knew my neck wasn't broken or anything like that because I could move my legs and stuff. But they said they wanted to take precautions in case something was actually wrong."
His father, Murray, watched the game on TV at home and needed to go for a walk outside to calm his nerves.
He said once his son called home, he knew everything would be all right.
"His mom (Marg) was able to stay watching but I had to go outside for about five minutes," Murray said.
"But as soon as he started to move on the ice, you could see it wasn't going to be as bad as it could have been.
"After he phoned, we knew we didn't have to be too concerned."
Certainly yesterday's celebration showed how much of a role model Yellow Horn has become.
On the heels of former Flame Theoren Fleury lashing out against fans who directed racial slurs at his Horse Lake Thunder senior team, Yellow Horn said he hopes a more positive image will be generated for Native hockey players.
"You hear racial slurs but not too often. You hear stuff like that once every three or four years. It's not from the players, though, it's the fans," he said.
"I don't think too much of it. If they want to do that, it's up to them, I guess, to go that low. I hope people will think a bit more about what they say to players. It's bad to say something racial."