'There is always life after hockey': Retired NHL player adjusts to life with MS – Washington Post

By Samantha Pell,

Two-year-old Makayla Bickell loves to talk about hockey. Since April, she has repeatedly asked her parents when they are going back to the arena to see another game. But the answer isn’t so easy.

Her dad, Bryan Bickell, received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in November 2016. A three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Chicago Blackhawks, Bickell decided to retire from the sport in April.

The former forward played 10 seasons in the NHL, nine with the Blackhawks and his final year with the Carolina Hurricanes.

But for his oldest daughter, Makayla, the concept of retirement still hasn’t processed. Whenever Makayla watches TV and sees a Blackhawks or Hurricanes jersey flash across the screen, she shouts, “Daddy scores!”

But her dad isn’t on the screen. He is at home. And he is not returning to the ice.

“It was really tough,” Bickell said in a telephone interview. “For me, I think about my family. I have two young girls, and you always want to think about family first. Hockey is a luxury. There is always life after hockey.”

[Bryan Bickell announces NHL retirement days after returning to play with MS]

For Bickell, 31, his symptoms started in November with what felt like a pinched nerve in his shoulder. Initially thinking he had slept on his shoulder wrong, he took some Aleve, iced it and moved on.

It wasn’t until the pain traveled down his arm and leg that he got an MRI exam. Lesions in his brain and spine confirmed the disease.

After being placed on injured reserve until January, Bickell played 10 games for the Hurricanes’ American Hockey League affiliate before playing in the Hurricanes’ final four games of the season. It was then he decided this year would be his last.

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