In 1987, Brad Hornung was a speedy 18 year old playmaker for the Western Hockey League Regina Pats, and all was right in his world. He had ambitions to make it to the pros, and he very well might have. He seemed to have the talent, he had the bloodlines (his dad Larry had a cup of coffee with the St. Louis Blues and spent 7 seasons in the WHA with the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, and San Diego Mariners), and the young fellow was getting better and better. His family were his biggest fans, he was a hometown hero, and things were going along in a splendid way.
Until one night.
It was the Moose Jaw Warriors in town on a winter night in March, and Brad had the puck and was speeding into the Warrior’s end. But before he could make his play, he was hit hard and he crashed into the boards. Blood came pouring out, the crowd was silent, and doctors came charging onto the ice where they messaged the fallen player’s heart and did an emergency tracheotomy then and there.
Brad was taken quickly to the hospital, his life hung by a thread for days and days, and somehow he would pull through. But tragically, the damage was done. He had suffered a broken neck, his spine cord severely damaged, and he was permanently paralysed from the neck down.
The on-ice hit had left Brad a quadriplegic, but it hadn’t weakened his spirit. He remained a rock, and never ever blamed the player who hit him, although the player lived with grief and guilt for years after. In fact, whenever this player, whom I won’t name, played after that, fans would yell and call him killer and paralyser and other such nastiness.
Brad, the one who should have been the angriest of them all, wasn’t. He simply said it wasn’t the player’s fault and it could have happened to anybody.
He’s in his early 40’s now, and from his wheelchair has scouted for the Chicago Black Hawks and remains a loyal Regina Pats alumni member. He’s a story of strength and heart, and when I read about him in Roy MacGregor’s great book “The Home Team – Fathers, Sons, & Hockey,” I was touched by what a fine man this guy is, and was amazed at how he got on with his life without being able to move almost every muscle in his body.
Not only that, with the help of a tube, he’a able to use the computer, and guess what, he has a blog! This amazing fellow talks about junior hockey on his site Hornung On Hockey and you can see that a life-changing thing like being paralyser can’t keep a good hockey man down.