Riley Colvard rises past broken neck

Published 11:03 am Friday, September 28, 2012

It's been just about a year since Riley Colvard could get back on the ice after recovering from a broken neck. Now’s he’s back playing the sport he loves. -- Eric Johnson/

Bruins forward back on the ice after 10 months

In a matter of a split second, Riley Colvard’s hockey career was at a crossroads.

After coming to the Austin Bruins as one of last year’s top prospects, Colvard was skating in a scrimmage against a team from Norway just 12 games into the season when he found himself with what Bruins head coach Chris Tok called one of the worst injuries he’s ever seen.

Colvard, a 6-3, 202-pound forward, had a broken neck and he was out of hockey for 10 months. He didn’t know if he’d play again.

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Last season, Colvard, who is from Lino Lakes, Minn., made himself available to the team and he helped out as much as he could as he slowly worked himself back into shape. He was finally cleared to get back to the game he loved in the offseason.

Colvard made his return to the Bruins’ lineup at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine this past weekend and he showed he’s still got some ability, when he scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner in overtime against Johnstown.

“Getting back on the score sheet was nice,” Colvard said. “I’m just trying to block everything about [the injury] out and I’m trying not to think about it. An injury like that is scary, but I’m just trying to go hard.”

After playing three games in three days, Colvard took Austin’s fourth game off at the Showcase to rest up. Colvard made another big step in a recent practice when he threw a hit that had Tok and the Bruins fired up and applauding him.

“It’s great to see him skating and he’s already playing at a pretty good level rather quickly,” Tok said. “It’s a big deal for him to start taking the body shots again.”

While doctors were optimistic on Colvard’s recovery from the start, there was never a 100 percent chance that he would be back this season. Besides overcoming the injury, Colvard had to work himself back into shape.

Tok said he can’t recall seeing too many injuries on the level of Colvard’s setback.

“For the magnitude and the length of his injury, Riley’s is by far the worst I’ve seen,” Tok said. “He had dedication and he had a great desire to play the game of hockey again. I told him it’ll be more difficult for him to play Division I hockey now, but he’s a big guy who can skate and he came back from a broken neck injury. Not a lot of people can do that.”

Colvard could’ve sulked and felt sorry for himself when he was injured last season. But when he came back to Austin to be with his teammates, it made a big difference in his recovery process.

“They’ve had my back all the way through and even the guys who left from last year are still in touch with me. I just want to go out there and prove that I can still do it, keep moving forward and keep getting better,” Colvard said. “It’s nice to spend less time in the training room and it’s great to be back on the ice. I love it here in Austin and love the coaching staff. It definitely feels amazing to be back.”