Take the good, no matter the situation
It would be a safe bet to assume that Paul Rosen can give a spirited locker-room speech.
The longtime goalie of the men's Paralympic Sledge Hockey Team was the guest speaker Friday at Blue Mountain Resort as the 2010 Conference of the Ontario Association of Career Colleges wrapped up.
Rosen was a top-tier hockey player until, at the age of 15, he broke his leg in 14 places during a game.
"I hit a rut in the ice and that was it," he told the audience.
That injury put his hockey career on hold for many years, and left him dealing with constant pain and a plethora of surgeries.
Thirteen years ago, that longtime and long-ago injury caught up with him again with near-disastrous consequences.
Rosen said he had begun coaching and working with an Israeli-based hockey team when he his leg broke again in an airport as the team returned from a tournament.
"I just stood up from a chair and it broke," he told the stunned audience.
He had a knee-replacement done, which was supposed to fix the problem, but he began to be troubled by a burning sensation in his shin and knee.
It turned out he had a life-threatening bone infection. After six months of unsuccessful treatment and more than 20 surgeries here in Canada, Rosen returned to Israel to have his leg evaluated. The next day he underwent amputation surgery after doctors told him he had only three months to live without the drastic treatment.
"I told them I wasn't ready to die," he said.
Surprisingly, within two days of the above-the-knee amputation, Rosen said he was moving around and looking forward to getting on with his life.
Within a year, he had mastered the art of playing sledge hockey and firmly ensconced himself as one of the top goalies in the country.
"It's an incredible game and the thing I loved about it is that it's a full-contact game," said Rosen. "I don't consider myself disabled. I try to turn every obstacle into an opportunity and this was an opportunity to play for my country and that's the greatest thrill in the world."
"My message is always about achieving greatness," he added. "Greatness comes in all forms. The journey is going through life and working as hard as you can and taking the good from every situation."
He also stresses personal responsibility as the first step on the journey to self-enlightenment.
"Many people are quick to take responsibility when something good happens, but never when bad things happen," he said. "The past 11 years of my life have been some of the greatest years. I've done way more with one leg than I ever did with two."
Considering those sentiments, it should come as no shock that Rosen now makes his living as a motivational speaker. Hockey is a hobby and sideline for him.
He turned 50 on Monday and is now considering whether to retire from competitive hockey on the "high of the Vancouver Olympics." His oldest daughter, he said, is older than a number of his team-mates.
"I believe everything is possible when you put your mind to it," he said with quiet certainty.
With that history, it's also easy to understand why he's philosophical about the team's fourth-place finish at the Vancouver Paralympics.
Rosen said the pressure was on after the able-bodied men's and women's teams won gold.
"Believe me, we wanted to win very badly. We knew there was pressure on us and we played hard. But there's a lot of great teams and only one team can win the gold medal."