Carle: Winter break across the states (and beyond)

Editor's Note: The day before the 2008 NHL draft, doctors determined David Carle had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a condition that results in a thickening of the heart and could cause sudden death during physical activity. Carle was forced to retire from hockey but is now a student-assistant coach at the University of Denver, where he had originally signed to play. Carle is documenting the experience for ESPN.com.

Hey Hockey Fans,

I hope the Christmas holiday was as good for everyone as it was for me. This was my first Christmas in my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, since my sophomore year of high school. For the past two Christmases, our family had traveled to San Jose, Calif. to keep my older brother Matthew company (he played for the Sharks until this season), but with him moving around so much lately, it was hard to arrange that this year. So it was back to the traditional snowy Christmas that Alaska offers.

I got to spend a week at home -- a break everyone told me seemed short. I thought I was getting spoiled, as my breaks were usually only four or five days due to the fact that our Shattuck-St. Mary's (Faribault, Minn.) teams would always travel to Europe during that time. So it was a great time to relax, see friends and family and, of course, eat some good, home-cooked meals.

I actually left on Dec. 4, the day the team left for Michigan Tech. I made my way up to Shattuck that weekend, stopping along the way in Kearney, Neb., Lincoln, Neb., and Des Moines, Iowa. I was able to stay at various homes that a few past teammates now live at while they are playing junior hockey in the United States Hockey League. I was even able to watch four of them play in games, as well, so the timing of the whole trip worked very nicely. I was going to Shattuck to speak to the school in a moderately informal setting, but due to some of the tragic events taking place there at the time, the school needed to address those issues. I ended up not speaking, but it was great to see former teachers, coaches and friends. I hope to be able to go back at a later date to see friends and to try to speak again.

I also met with a fellow HCMer in the cities, a former Minnesota Gophers hockey player. It was great meeting him face-to-face. We shared our own personal experiences with each other and also shared ideas of how to raise awareness of the disease with the final goal of making the lives of future diagnoses better.

Next up, I drove to Winnipeg, Manitoba, to see my girlfriend and her family and to attend a dinner. Coldest weather I've felt in awhile. Anchorage is nowhere near as cold as it was that week in Winnipeg, and Denver certainly softened me up some as we get spoiled with the sun almost every day. I will say, though, that I was told it is not always that cold -- I was just there at a rough time.

Along with hanging out with my girlfriend and her family, I had a dinner with a family that had been touched by HCM and a children's charity that are both adamant and excited to be working together to implement and expand testing for HCM as much as possible. It was a treat to meet all of the wonderful people at the dinner, and it is exciting to be moving toward making a real difference in some people's lives. Hopefully, it will catch on and many people can be saved, just as I was.

I was able to spread the drive back to Denver over two days, staying in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Kearney, Neb., both towns where players I used to play with at Shattuck live. Then I was on a plane home to see the family and celebrate a wonderful Alaskan Christmas.

Thanks and until next time,
David Carle