Wade MacLeod found his toughest opponent by chance.
It wasn't Brandon Manning - the Adirondack Phantoms player, who crushed him into the boards on February 17, 2013.
It was the real cause of the alarming seizure which followed Manning's illegal challenge.
After MacLeod was stretchered off the ice that night, doctors discovered he had a brain tumour the size of a golf ball. It would destroy his sporting dream.
"I was in a seven-game points streak so I was right there to get called up to the NHL (National Hockey League)," says Wade.
"I got boarded and my helmet slipped up. My head struck the glass.
"It was discouraging, to say the least, not making it to the NHL. But I switched my mindset to having fun. I wasn't going to let cancer be the reason I retired."
After surgery, Wade lost his speech for nearly two months and had to undergo intensive speech therapy to get it back.
But, within six months, he was back on the ice, with a spell at the Toronto Marlies before moving to Germany.
After a successful stint at Rosenheim, Wade had just signed a two-year deal with Frankfurt when he learned his tumour had regrouped.
He hasn't struck a puck, professionally, since.
"Raising a baby and a toddler was the most challenging because I felt like I wasn't there for my wife, Karly. But I got through it for them."
After going through brain surgery four times, plus chemo and radiotherapy, Wade is now looking forward to another comeback.
This time with Manchester Storm. His debut is likely to be on September 22 at Coventry, with a huge roar from the Storm fans at his first home game - against Cardiff Devils - on September 26.
Wade says he never gives a second thought to the possibility of getting 'boarded' again, like the Manning challenge at the start of this eight-year journey.
In fact, after a three-year absence, the thought of a physical battle on the ice makes Wade beam with anticipation.
"When I take my first hit, it's going to get me going," he says, excitedly.
"Whatever hits come my way, I'll take in my stride."
The metaphor may have been accidental, but his approach to both sport and life is very deliberate. And one which will make him a hugely popular figure at the Storm Shelter.