The bleeding noses and headaches, he thought, were maybe a concussion.
Which is why the news it was caused by a tumour hit Matt Hubbauer harder than a Scott Stevens body check.
He was a teen, attending the Detroit Red Wings training camp in the fall of 2002 and was told to see a doctor to find the problem.
"It was scary. I'm 19 years old and a really healthy young guy and all of a sudden I'm told I've got an abnormal sinus tumour the size of an apple," recalled Hubbauer of that day. "At that point, you're main concern is your health but it makes you switch your priorities."
Fortunately the growth was removed and found to be benign. However, Hubbauer was told he'd likely never play hockey again.
Instead, skates and pucks were the driving force to get him through the tough times.
"Hockey was the carrot," said the Winnipegger. "It was a huge driving force in my life. I couldn't imagine my life without hockey. Every day I look forward to going to the rink."
Hubbauer gained new life in hockey through CBC's Making The Cut -- a reality show which pitted NHL hopefuls left by the wayside against each other with berths to NHL training camps for the six Canadian teams up for grabs. Hubbauer, the slick-skating 5-ft. 10-in., 195-lb. forward, was chosen by to attend Calgary's camp by GM/head coach Darryl Sutter in the final episode.
"At first, I didn't know what to expect, how serious to take it or exactly what it was all about," he said. "But I thought it couldn't hurt."
Actually, the decision paid immediate dividends. Though the series was filmed during the summer of 2004, the finale didn't come until December. In the meantime, Hubbauer parlayed a free agent tryout with the Toronto Maple Leafs into a gig with their top farm team in St. John's during which he collected two goals and six assists in 51 games.
But now the 22-year-old is again working for a contract.
"I'm not trying to put too much pressure on myself but I want to come in, make and impression and get noticed," he said. "I want to prove to the management and coaches I'm a player they want in their system and will fit in somewhere."
There is some solace Sutter thought enough of him to give a prolonged look.
"Yeah, it's definitely encouraging," said the centre who's would seem a good fit for the Flames new AHL squad in Omaha. "I know the type of guy and the type of coach Darryl is and I think I'm a player that can fit into his system."