A four-year Ontario Hockey League veteran, goalie John Cullen recently finished his final year of junior with the Windsor Spitfires. He will be bringing his player's perspective to Buzzing The Net on a regular basis.
John Cullen and his father, Thomas.
The grueling 68-game regular season of the Ontario Hockey League leaves players mentally and physically exhausted. It was in my first week home with my family after my overage season with the Windsor Spitfires that I would hear the news that would turn my world upside down. With a first-round playoff loss to one of the top teams in Canada, the London Knights, and the opportunity to play professional hockey in the ECHL with the Ontario Reign over, I returned home very drained and worn out. All of the trials and tribulations of my hockey career have readied me for the challenges of life, but nothing could have prepared me for the news I was about to hear: My father had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.
Initially, I was in shock, but it was the fear of this unknown disease that frightened me the most. I was immediately reminded of Michael J Fox's condition. The tremors, involuntary and slowness of movement, rigidity and speech problems are just a few of the symptoms associated with Parkinson's. Over the next week I educated myself on the disease the best way I knew how. I took to the books and read everything I could about it to prepare to help my father in whatever way I could.
A good friend let me know about former NHLer Steve Ludzik and his battle against Parkinson's. Ludzik played parts of nine seasons in the NHL, not to mention the hundreds of games spent in junior and minor leagues. He does not hesitate to make the connection between head trauma he suffered in his playing career and the onset of his Parkinson's almost 20 years later.
"I watch these hits guys are taking and delivering," Ludzik said of today's game. "I know in my heart of hearts (the disease) was caused by taking shots to the head." He has become an inspiration to me because of his determination to help make a difference by becoming an advocate for those with going through the same thing.
"My legacy isn't going to be Steve Ludzik the player, Steve Ludzik the coach, Steve Ludzik the writer or Steve Ludzik the television personality," he said. "It's Steve Ludzik, the guy who had Parkinson's and helped other people."
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