Bozon’s NHL dream still alive

(St. John’s, NFLD) – Tim Bozon doesn’t like to look back — which is understandable considering what the St. John’s IceCaps forward has gone through.

It was only two years ago that Bozon was in a medically induced coma at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon with Neisseria meningitidis. He was admitted into the hospital’s intensive-care unit the morning after scoring a goal for the junior Western Hockey League’s Kootenay Ice in a 4-2 victory over the Saskatoon Blades.

The acute bacterial meningitis left him fighting for his life with his parents flying in from their home in Cureglia, Switzerland, to be at his bedside. Bozon spent almost a month in hospital and when he was released had lost 40 pounds and encountered difficulty speaking and walking.

So you had to smile when Bozon scored the winning goal for the IceCaps Saturday night at the Mile One Centre with just over two minutes left in their final game of the season for a 2-1 victory over the Hartford Wolf Pack.

“You try to put it behind you,” the 22-year-old said about his battle with meningitis. “Obviously, it’s always in your head when you have some time off and you’re doing nothing, you think about it. Mostly in a bad situation, when everything is not going well, you think about that.

“I’m really lucky to be here and do what I love to do and still have a chance to one day realize my dream,” added Bozon, who was selected by the Canadiens in the third round (64th overall) at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. “So, obviously, sometimes you think about it, but it’s not something you want to think about too much.

“I’m back to 100 per cent. Everything is fine.”

Bozon had what he called an “up and down” season. It started with him suffering an upper-body injury during the Canadiens’ training camp that took him a while to recover from and he was also sent down by the IceCaps to the ECHL’s Brampton Beast, where he posted 3-6-9 totals in 15 games. In 41 games with the IceCaps, the 6-foot-1, 201-pounder had 5-3-8 totals.

“He came back from that (meningitis) and he worked his butt off to do that,” IceCaps coach Sylvain Lefebvre said. “The courage and the determination that he had going through that is going to help him for the rest of his hockey career.

“He went down to the East Coast league and came back,” the coach added. “It’s not easy to go down and play in the East Coast league, but sometimes when a guy goes down he knows what he needs to do. Tim has worked hard and I think it was also a confidence thing for him.”

Bozon said his first season in the AHL was about learning to be a good pro and improve on his defensive play after posting 35-28-63 totals last season in 57 games with the Kootenay Ice. Lefebvre started using him on the penalty-killing unit during practice and Bozon did such a good job that the coach began using him there during games.

“I told him: ‘See, you work hard in practice and you get rewarded,’ ” Lefebvre said.

Said Bozon: “This year, I’ve been put in a more defensive role … I haven’t really been put in an offensive role and given a chance to produce. I’ve been working a lot on my defensive game and my two-way game. I even played some games at centre and since I came back after Christmas, I’ve been playing on the penalty kill most of the time and I’ve been doing a pretty good job at it. I’ve been getting better at it. I’ve really worked on blocking shots, all that kind of stuff that will help me to be a complete two-way player.”

But Bozon still loves to score goals. He had three or four really good chances Saturday night while playing left wing on a line with centre Mark MacMillan and Jeremy Grégoire before finally beating Wolf Pack goalie Mackenzie Skapski, who was Bozon’s junior teammate in Kootenay. Bozon said his linemates were razzing him on the bench and in the locker room during intermissions about all his missed chances.

“I was getting mad, but I was also laughing,” Bozon said. “We looked at the clock and there was about three minutes left and I said: ‘OK, how about if we score on the last shift of the year?’ ”

When Bozon did score, his reaction as he looked up to the heavens with a huge smile was priceless.

“It’s a great memory to keep for the summer,” he said.

Bozon left St. John’s on Sunday for France and is hoping to represent his country at next month’s IIHF World Hockey Championship in Russia and also at a qualifying tournament for the 2018 Olympic Games in September.

He expects to be back in St. John’s next season as he enters the final year of his contract.

“I expect to not only come back, but to play a bigger role next season and be more part of the team offensively and really show what I can do,” Bozon said. “Show what my strengths are.”

Said Lefebvre: “He doesn’t ask for us to have pity, he doesn’t want that. He wants to earn what he gets and he’s done that.”

Bozon is looking straight ahead.

(Excerpted from Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette)