In a night filled with honors for some of the best hockey players in the country, one emotional moment stood above the rest.
The moment the NHL honored Bryan Bickell.
The former Blackhawk’s career was cut short after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November. He ended his hockey run with the Carolina Hurricanes, playing in less than a dozen games with the team.
But his journey back from rehab to playing his final game in the NHL was an extraordinary moment that earned him praise during the league’s national awards ceremony.
“I didn’t know if I was going to play hockey again,” Bickell said in a heartfelt video showed during the ceremony.
After rehabbing for weeks, Bickell returned to play with the Hurricanes, revealing the team’s season finale against the Flyers would be his last.
“Those people were there for me,” Bickell said in the video as footage showed each Hurricanes player shaking his hand and hugging him before the game.
But as the game went into overtime, it was Bickell who was first up in the shootout – a shot that would ultimately become his last. And it went in.
The stadium erupted as fans, players and his family roared for the goal.
“There’s hockey life and there’s life after hockey,” Bickell said in the video as he talked about his future with his family and seeing his daughters grow up.
Bickell went on to give a speech during the ceremony, thanking the Blackhawks and the Hurricanes and his fans.
But it was his thank you to his wife that had tears streaming down the faces of many in the audience.
“When I said no, she said yes. She picked me up when I was down,” he said. “If it wasn’t for Amanda, for everything… Thank you Amanda.”
The moment ended with the league making a $20,000 donation to the Bryan & Amanda Bickell Foundation.