no doubt in my mind he would have been a 1st round draft pick or an
early 2nd round pick," says Green Bay Gamblers Head Coach and General Manager
Derek Lalonde when asked about assistant coach David Carle. "He was going
to play in the National Hockey League."
assistant coach for the University of Denver, Lalonde helped his school win a recruiting
battle for Carlethat featured several big-time hockey programs.
David is the younger brother
or Matt Carle, a star NHL defenseman who won the Hobey Baker award at
scoring a goal and helping his prep team win a national championship his senior
year of high school, it seemed Carle's future was as bright as his wavy red
even had to miss his high school graduation ceremony because he was invited to
the 2008 NHL Combine in Ottawa.
had my whole next 20 years of my life planned out," Carle said. "I knew
what I was going to be doing, had goals in mind and all that. Obviously
that took a hard left turn that summer."
combine the pro prospects are given extensive physical exams.
had an EKG done there," Carle said. "Apparently it looked a little bit
different than everybody else's."
After visiting a doctor in Alaska, Carle changed his plane ticket that was supposed to take him to the Combine and now he was headed to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. A week later he was given a diagnosis, David had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
HCM is a disease that causes a thickening of the heart,
which puts a person at risk of sudden cardiac death during physical activity. Carle knew what that diagnosis meant.
"Literally the morning of the NHL Draft he had to retire from hockey," recalls Lalonde who was in Canada for the draft.
"Initial reaction was you break down a little bit," said Carle. Then you kind of have to pick yourself up and try to learn about it because the disease isn't going anywhere."
While his heart was the reason he could no longer play the game he loved, the heart of the hockey community was helping Carle pick up the pieces.
"The Tampa Bay Lightning did draft me in the 7th round," recalls Carle who found out from text messages and phone calls in the airport heading back home. "So that was a very special thing for them to do; they certainly didn't have to.
says the owner of the Lightning Oren Koules told him he had worked his whole life for this and "now
someday you'll be able to tell your grandkids you were drafted by the NHL."
Then the University of Denver delivered a big assist by honoring the recruit's scholarship. In return Carle became a student coach.
"That gesture probably meant more than anything to me" says Carle. "I don't know where I'd be without my education from the University of Denver. It did seem natural to continue to go to the rink, but I really didn't know how I'd react to it. For me it was more of a coping mechanism. Each year kind of progressed further and further to the point where I'd say I was a full blown member of the staff my senior year."
"I had a feeling I was going to work with David again someday," Lalonde said this week. "But I didn't think it'd come that quick."
coach of the defending Clark Cup Champions had left Denver a year earlier, and
when an assistant of his moved on to be a head coach elsewhere, he was on the
recruiting trail once again..
was the first phone call I made and here we are working with the Green Bay Gamblers,"
Lalonde said. "He's a brilliant
person. His hockey sense is through the
roof. Part of why he was such a good
player is he thought the game very well."
February was heart health awareness month and a big part of the reason Carle has been able to move on so well in his post-playing career is because of his attitude. He knows he's lucky he was diagnosed and is still alive.
"I do feel very grateful to be able to spread the word."
Carle has worked with
the American Heart Association in Denver and has gone out into the community to
speak about HCM in his former city and in Green Bay. As far as his
career goes, Carle says coaching has been a rewarding experience, but the
finance major isn't ruling out a potential front office job someday
either. As a matter of fact he's learned
not to erase any possibilities.
"I try to live year by year, day by day." Carle says. "Five years ago I thought I had my whole life planned out and that didn't go according to plan. I'm trying to keep as many doors and opportunities open as I can over the next few years to see what it is I want to do."
It's hard to imagine Carle not being around the ice in some way, after all he's given his heart to the sport of hockey for so many years.
"It's been a big part of my life, so that's probably something I will continue to do for sure."