When 31-year-old Carolina Hurricanes forward Brian Bickell was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis back in November, the entire hockey world was shocked and saddened.
The unpredictable, disabling disease of the central nervous system will not allow Bickell to continue his NHL career and on Saturday, he announced that the two final games of the regular season would be his last, as he would hang up his skates for the final time after Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Before that contest, he told ESPN the following:
"Hopefully, we can fill the net up for the last home game for the fans. Hopefully I can get one for myself. You never know when the last one is. It would be special.”
It certainly was special.
Check out what he did when tasked with taking a decisive shootout attempt:
A game-winner in his final contest? What a storybook ending.
On Saturday, the same day as Bickell’s organized MS benefit walk, the team announced that Bickell was given the Steve Chiasson Award by his teammates. The award is given annually to the player who “best exemplifies determination and dedication while proving to be an inspiration to his teammates through his performance and approach to the game.”
"To be told that's what you're dealing with, knowing it affects your livelihood and what you love to do, it's not easy in so many different aspects," Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis said. "Everybody can be a captain when the seas are calm, but I think when adversity hits and you have to deal with things that are out of your control, you learn a lot more about a person. The way Bryan has handled this as a person from day one to the present is nothing short of remarkable."
"He's a man's man, and he's a pro's pro, and he's unbelievably brave," head coach Bill Peters told NHL.com while choking back tears.
This was Bickell’s first season with the Hurricanes. Previously, he won three Stanley Cup titles with the Chicago Blackhawks. After his diagnosis in November, he resumed practicing in January and began playing for the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL in February before finishing up the final games of the year with the NHL club.
He is a true inspiration based on the courage and determination that he showed in the face of an ugly, debilitating disease. While the road ahead will be tough for him, he has already made a lasting impact on the MS community by spreading awareness of the awful affliction.