by Josh McFadden
BOUNTIFUL–When the Viewmont hockey club hoisted the state championship trophy following its big win over Murray last month, every member took part in the celebration and played a key role in the accomplishment.
Even a player who didn’t see one minute of game action during the state tournament was every bit as responsible for the team’s success.
Senior Gavin Poulson entered the season with high hopes last fall, looking to help lead the team on the ice to a title. Poulson was one of the Vikings’ top returning players. But the forward only played in one full game and part of another before his season—and ultimately his career—came to a halt.
On Oct. 7, the Vikings were playing in an early season tournament in Colorado when Poulson took an elbow to the head in what Viewmont head coach Roger Barrus called a “cheap shot.” The opposing player was kicked out of the game, and Poulson lay unconscious for four minutes.
“He laid on the ice while his dad stood looking through the glass at his son lying motionless on the ice,” Barrus said. “Both teams gathered around in a circle on the ice in prayer. I’ve never seen anything like it. The opposing coach offered the prayer as I helped Gavin into the ambulance. He was in a neck brace, and it was very scary. I have never been so scared for someone in my life. I love that kid with all my heart.”
Poulson said he remembers little about the incident. He recalls getting “drilled and falling face-first” and then “everything going blurry.” The next thing he knew, he was in the hospital with his hockey gear off.
It was his second head injury in the past four months. He had to go through three months of physical therapy after the first one. The second injury occurred in his first tournament back on the ice. The successive injuries required Poulson to make a difficult decision.
“I decided I should probably not play again,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of big-picture things in life. It was scary. Hockey is an amazing sport, but it’s dangerous when you’re not playing right.”
Initially, Gavin was angry that this unfair play had ended his season and career. It would have been easy for him to hold these feelings inside for much longer, but he realized bitterness wouldn’t get him anywhere, not when he has other goals in life to accomplish.
“For the first few weeks when it settled in that I was not going to play again, I did hold a grudge,” he said. “[The player who injured him] took away my senior year. But once I figured out that I have things to offer off the ice, I figured I shouldn’t dwell on this. I got over it.”
Instead, Poulson contributed in other meaningful ways to the team.
Barrus said even though Poulson was no longer part of the playing rotation, was still an integral part of the team. He continued to work hard and dedicated himself to his teammates and to the team’s objective of winning state.
“He made a commitment to be part of this family, and he still came to the games and all of the early morning practices,” Barrus said. “He would dress warm and stand on the bench and push kids to work harder each morning practice. He jumped in and helped coach and helped pull the boys together. He put as much time into the team as the skaters did. Nobody screamed louder than Gavin when we won, and he was one of the first ones to jump into the pile of crying players when the clock hit zero and the buzzer told us that we won (the championship game).”
For Poulson, there was never a doubt that he would continue being involved in the team. He remained a team captain and supported his teammates.
“I needed these boys because they are my best friends,” he said. “Even though I wasn’t on the ice, I had a lot to give. I have a lot of knowledge to share. It takes an entire team to win. People on the ice are coaching.”
Though Poulson admits it was challenging and different not being out there during game action, he said the state title was no less memorable.
“It was special for me because we won it in a way I never thought,” he said. “We had so much talent I didn’t know existed. It was great to left the trophy and be there with my brothers.”
Poulson has big plans in the coming years. He hasn’t ruled out trying his hand at coaching down the road, especially someday when he has a child old enough to play. After graduation, he plans on attending a school in Arizona to learn automotive and diesel mechanics.