One could understand if Ryan Aasman wanted to put his Western Hockey League dream on hold and stay at home with his family in Medicine Hat this season.
After losing his father Tony to terminal cancer just two days before he was to officially begin his rookie campaign with the Prince Albert Raiders, Aasman is doing his best to continue the dream he and his father shared.
"It was a dream we both had, and it was what we worked so hard towards," said Aasman, who is looked upon to have a bright future with the rebuilding Raiders organization. "My dad was a real battler.
"For 20 years, he fought various illnesses, but he still worked hard every day providing for our family and being a great dad and a family man.
"He was my mentor."
Aasman's dad was a diabetic -- he was forced to be on dialysis after his kidneys failed a few years ago, and he also went through a kidney and pancreas transplant last year. That was all prior to him being diagnosed with cancer in August.
Tony played an integral role in the Medicine Hat minor hockey association.
He had a true passion for hockey at all levels. He was a Medicine Hat Tigers season-ticket holder, and he and Ryan would go to the games together.
He had two dreams. To watch Ryan play in the WHL and to become a coach in the WHL.
He was able to make both dreams comes true when the Raiders and Tigers held a fundraiser in his honour during an exhibition game in September.
Tony got to be on the bench of the Tigers, alongside head coach Willie Desjardins against his son's Raiders.
The game raised $28,000 for the Aasman family. Just one week later, Sept. 17, Tony passed away.
"My dad coached all of his life, and to see him be a part of a WHL game was truly special, and I couldn't have been more proud of him," said Aasman, who was the Raiders first-round pick, eighth overall, in 2007.
"As proud as he was to see me play a WHL game,
I was just as proud to see him behind that bench. That whole night was special."
Dealing with his father's illness his entire life has fast-tracked his maturity. While he enjoys many of the best things about being a kid, he's been forced to handle situations like an adult would.
"My dad was a big part of my life, and when he was sick I made sure that I was home at a decent time because
I was afraid something bad was going to happen. I wanted to be there to take care of him," Aasman said. "My dad was always there for us, and I felt I needed to be there for him.
"I've really had to grow up the last few years, but
I think I've handled it the best I could."
Aasman missed the first seven games of the Raiders season. He's played
13 games for the club, patrolling the blue-line. As he lives his dream without his father watching him in the stands or being just a phone call away, he thinks about some of the advice his dad would be giving him after each game.
"My dad was always one to give me advice, and I can feel he is helping me. When I am on the bench, I reflect a lot of times on the game, and I am catching myself thinking of things I would never think of," Aasman said.
"Sometimes I feel like my dad is telling me stuff in my head -- he's watching over me."