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Love of the Game

Hockey has been a part of my life since my 1st time on skates on the Milwaukee River in Thiensville. Having never played youth or High School hockey my interest really began to grow when I went to school in Madison and went to my first Badger Hockey game. Chris Chelios actually tossed his stick up to us after being ejected for fighting against the Fighting Sioux of North Dakota. After college I moved to Chicago and experience my first Blackhawks game at the old stadium, which was a whole new experience. This again fueled the fire for my love of ice hockey.  But I did not skate on ice again until a bunch of dad?s who had kids playing hockey decided to put their own team together.  The River Rats were officially born and took to the ice.  In 1 year a bunch of 40-year-old dads who have never played competitive hockey won the C level championship.  Unfortunately, after that season I missed 2 years of playing hockey due to back surgeries.  After begging my wife and pleading my case, love of the game to play again, I did a try-out and was added to a team ironically enough called the Warriors.  Little did I know how the name would ring in true on and off the ice. We had a successful 2 years together division championship year 1 and league championship year 2.

It was in my 2nd year of playing that I started to notice changes.  These changes were unexplainable but included difficulty in getting dressed, strength and stamina, and keeping my head up (a vital necessity when playing ice-hockey).  I told our team captain, Kevin, but did not tell the whole team what I was going through and the possibilities of a diagnosis. Kevin gently shared that the team could also notice changes and their concerns were based on love and support and safety.  I later sent an e-mail to the team and explained I had a motor-neuron disease and a probable ALS diagnosis and this would be my last season.  I hung onto to the hope that the diagnosis was wrong and not probable at all. The Warriors went on to take the Championship that year and I was able to take one final shift with the victory in hand. It was a moment I will never forget and I was able to share that with my three boys raising the trophy in victory.

Since my playing days my symptoms have increased and physically I have experienced more changes. My diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) was confirmed in 2010.  This diagnosis ended my playing days, but I am an active participant and supporter as 3 of my 4 children play high school/youth hockey. I also get out to see the Warriors play as time allows. While I treasure the hockey trophies we have won together, I consider my true trophy to be my family who I will continue to fight for in my battle against ALS. Thank you to my team who has stood beside me on and off the ice! They are the warriors who continue to do battle by my side.

I’m committed to make an impact and will not give up without a fight.  I would invite you to join me and my family at the October 9th Milwaukee Walk to Defeat ALS.

Simply go to: www.walktodefeatals.org and join my team: Must be The Eutee!

Thank you and as Badger Bob said, “It’s a great day for hockey!”

One response to “Love of the Game

  1. Jo Ann Byers ⋅

    Jim,
    I took the time to finally read your blog and I can truthfully say I am inspired by your word. I feel fortunate to have met you and gotten to know you last year when Evan was in my class. I so admire your dedication to helping in the classroom. I appreciated your committment and your reliability. I feel honored to know you and will keep you and your family in my prayers.
    Jo Ann Byers

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