It was not too long ago when Nathan Horton was dropping Boston tap water on the Vancouver ice before game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals and then lifted Lord Stanley's prize hours later. Now, there is a possibility Horton may never play in the NHL again. Horton currently faces an awful decision of whether to deal with constant back pain or have surgery that would end his hockey career.
According to a recent article in the Columbus Dispatch, Horton was quoted as saying "I can’t stand up like a normal person; I can’t bend over, I can’t sleep at night. I try to lay down and my back seizes up and I can’t move, so sleeping is out. I’m like a zombie in the daytime."
Horton is struggling with the difficult decision and can't fathom not playing hockey before turning thirty-years-old. In that same article Horton talked about this dilemma saying “I don’t want to have surgery, because of what that means,” Horton said, his voice breaking behind a smile. “I don’t want to live with this pain, but I don’t want to make that decision. It’s hard for me to say that, at 29 years old, I’m done. I mean, really? Done at 29?” Many professional athletes have had to retire early due to injury and Horton knows exactly how they feel.
Bruins fans remember Horton as a skillful, strong player that was a perfect fit on a line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. The Boston faithful will always remember it was Horton who scored the overtime game winner against the hated Montreal Canadiens in game 7 of the first round and then scored the only goal in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to send his team to the promised land. This clutch play made Horton an instant favorite in the hub of hockey. The fans and management wanted him to stay in Boston after the 2012-13 season, but Horton decided to sign with Columbus.
Now, the Bruins seemed to have dodged a major bullet in the form of another huge contract to a player sitting on long-term injured reserve. This has been a chronic issue for Horton ever since the fall of 2013 when he was rehabbing from shoulder surgery. Horton played through the pain to start the 2013 season, but could not skate normally and eventually hurt his groin. This injury cut his first season in Columbus short and he has not played since.
Horton is not giving up on playing again, but the chances seem very slim. He has tried all different kinds of treatments, but one step forward leads to three steps backwards. It is a sad state of affairs for the one-time Stanley Cup champion, but perhaps winning hockey's holy grail will allow Horton to eventually make a tough decision to move on from the NHL. Horton and the Blue Jackets are hoping that somehow, that won't be the case.
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