A family hit hard

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

You could call it one of a parent's worst nightmares.

In the span of just a couple months, Dr. Cal Botterill saw his son, Jason, and daughter, Jennifer, suffer through the effects of a concussion.

Both of the stories have a happy ending, though one of his children had to give up the sport they've loved since they were toddlers.

Jennifer, a solid two-way forward with Canada's Olympic women's hockey team, is off to Italy next month in search of a gold medal.

Jason, meanwhile, chose to retire from hockey and is now enrolled at the University of Michigan working towards his masters in business administration.

"I felt surrounded by it," said Cal, who had dealt with concussions before but found himself doing plenty of research on the subject to do what he could to aid in the recovery process. "You always feel for your kids. The game has a violent dimension to it, and you can't deny it. So if you're a parent and your kid chooses to play, there's always some fear that something could happen that could injure them or jeopardize their life even beyond hockey."

While Cal and his wife, Doreen, saw their kids struggle at times with the injury, they felt good knowing Jason and Jennifer had always prepared for life after hockey.

"We always said that if you love something, go for it but have some balance in your life," said Cal. "By going to college and having the student-athlete experience, they both grew immensely as students and athletes.

"As a parent, you're relieved when your kids have done their planning."

The toughest part of watching Jason retire was knowing how close the powerful winger was to finally becoming a full-time player with the Buffalo Sabres.

"You know how badly he wanted it," said Cal. "He had a very accurate vision that his time was coming. He kept getting better as a player, and as soon as the lockout was over he was going to have an opportunity.

'HEARTBREAKING'

"It was really just a matter of time, so it felt heartbreaking and was really disappointing because he had invested so much.

"But once he got two or three medical assessments, he realized he couldn't fight it. It wasn't worth it. He had to start thinking of other things."

Jason says his entire family was great throughout the decision-making process and continues to be.

"I've had so much support throughout my entire life," said Jason. "You realize when you go through difficult times, like giving up the game you've absolutely loved your entire life, it's nice to have people lift you up. My parents have always been supportive in anything I've done.

"The greatest thing about them is that they're just as excited about how I'm doing in school these days as whether I had a hat trick on the ice."


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