(Montreal, PQ) — To say that Tim Bozon has made a remarkable comeback would be an understatement.
In joining the 43 other prospects and invitees at Canadiens Rookie Camp on Friday, Bozon accomplished something that few people thought possible about six months ago.
On March 1, 2014, the 20-year-old forward was admitted to Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon where he was diagnosed with Neisseria meningitis. While fighting for his life, Bozon spent some time in a medically induced coma. Fortunately, with the support of his doctors, his family and the entire hockey community, the St. Louis, MO native overcame the difficult illness and was released from hospital on March 28. But, it was only the start of a long and winding road towards a dream that suddenly seemed almost out of reach.
“It changed my life. I’m a different person now. I’m more mature. It will make me stronger. I lived through hell, and now I’m back,” offered Bozon, moments after concluding his round of physical tests at the Bell Sports Complex. “The result of the test I just underwent was better than last year. I’m happy. I worked hard to get there, so I’m not surprised, but it’s all just a bonus. I don’t really look at numbers. I feel fit and healthy, and that’s the most important thing for me.”
While the left-winger’s participation in the five-day camp is an important development in its own right, Bozon is adamant that it’s just one step in a process towards earning a coveted spot in the pros.
RAW: Tim Bozon
“I’m proud to be here after everything that’s happened. It’s a bonus for me. When I left the hospital, my objective was to be here and I can say that I won my battle,” stressed Bozon, who lost 40 pounds while battling his illness, but now tips the scales at 190 pounds. “Becoming a professional hockey player is my dream, and I didn’t want it to end at the age of 20 back in March. I did everything I could to come back at the highest level. Right now, I’m thinking about my family and all of the people who helped me along the way. I couldn’t have done it alone. Many people helped me realize my dream.”
If the story of the young forward has all the makings of a Hollywood feature film, it’s also a source of inspiration for every one of the players on site in Brossard.
“It’s a miracle. We rarely hear stories like that. Tim is a good person. His incredible spirit is what helped him get back to where he is now,” underlined Charles Hudon, who trained with Bozon over the course of the last week alongside Bozon’s countryman, Antoine Roussel. “It was hard for him. The entire organization is behind him. Tim and I were drafted at the same time. We know each other well. I’m happy to see him back on his feet.”
Playing for the Vancouver Giants when the Frenchman was stricken with meningitis, Dalton Thrower knows first-hand just how big a role Bozon’s support system played in his recovery.
“It’s really spectacular. When all of the guys in the WHL heard what happened to him, it was frightening. But, to see where he is now is incredible. To see him at camp is special,” offered Thrower, who went up against Bozon many times over the course of the last few years. “I was in contact with him while he was sick. We could see just how sick he was in the photographs, and to see the way he is now is amazing. Not many people could battle back from that.
“He’s an inspiration for everyone,” added Thrower, who, for his part, cannot take part in any on-ice activities due to injury. “Everyone can be motivated by his story. It will be a part of him forever, and he can look back and see what he was able to overcome.”
Now, Bozon is ready to move on to the next chapter of his life.
“On Saturday, I want to be like every other player. I don’t expect to be given any favorable treatment by the Canadiens,” concluded Bozon with a smile. “I just want to have fun. Five months ago, I was in a hospital bed, half-dead. Thinking about my dream has been a motivating factor for me. I want to have fun.”
Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.