Wojtek Wolski scores twice for Canada at Olympics just 16 months after breaking neck
The former NHL player has had an incredible (and unlikely) journey to Pyeongchang
Less than a year and a half ago, Wojtek Wolski wasn't sure if he was ever going to walk again. On Thursday in Pyeongchang, he scored two goals for Canada's men's hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The pair of goals helped Canada beat Switzerland 5-1 in its opening game of the tournament, and they came just 16 months after Wolski suffered a broken neck in a KHL game. In October of 2016, Wolski, then playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, dove for a loose puck and was inadvertently driven headfirst into the boards.
As he lay motionless on the ice, Wolski thought he was paralyzed.
He was stretchered off the ice and transported to a nearby hospital, unsure if that would be the final moment of his playing career.
But over the last 16 months, Wolski has undergone multiple surgeries and extensive rehab in an effort to take back his life both on and off the ice.
"It kind of just grew from: 'OK, I can feel my hands and feet? I'm going to be able to walk. Am I going to be able to play with my kids and normal life?'" Wolski said last week, via NBC. "And once I knew that that would be possible, I started thinking, 'OK, will I be able to play sports?' From there: 'Will I be able to play hockey? Will I be able to play professional hockey again?'"
Not only did the 31-year-old, who spent time with the Avalanche, Coyotes, Rangers, Panthers and Capitals in the NHL, reclaim his ability to play pro hockey, he was able to do so in time to earn an opportunity he likely never imagined.
When the NHL elected not to go to South Korea for the 2018 Games, Hockey Canada began its search for players that could take the place of the NHL superstars. Rather than tap into a pool of impressive youngsters -- including many who just won gold at the 2018 World Junior Championship -- Canada's leadership group decided to assemble a roster with a more experienced group of players, including several former NHL players.
Wolski, who was born in Poland but has dual-citizenship in Canada, got the call.
It didn't take him long to prove that his selection wasn't just for the great story. In Canada's tournament-opening game on Thursday, the forward cut through some Swiss cheese defense with a nifty move before sniping a goal that that made it 4-0 Canada.
Wolski later added an empty net goal in the final handful of minutes, which was just icing on the cake.
We knew that the lack of NHL players in Pyeongchang would pave the way for some unlikely heroes to step up in the men's hockey tournament, but Wolski might just be the most unlikely of them all.
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