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Louisdale teenager recovering from severe traumatic brain injury to attend NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis

Spencer McNamara will attend the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend with his family this weekend. The Louisdale family was expected to arrive in St. Louis, Mo., on Thursday. Along with attending the events, there will be a number of surprises for him as the trip is part of the Children’s Wish Foundation.
Spencer McNamara will attend the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend with his family this weekend. The Louisdale family was expected to arrive in St. Louis, Mo., on Thursday. Along with attending the events, there will be a number of surprises for him as the trip is part of the Children’s Wish Foundation. - Contributed
SYDNEY, N.S. —

Spencer McNamara spent the entire summer of 2018 mowing lawns to buy a pair of skates he hopes to one day wear on his return to the ice.

Like many Cape Breton teenagers, McNamara spent countless hours at the local arena playing and watching hockey.

When he wasn’t on the ice suiting up for the Strait Richmond Minor Hockey Association and Richmond Academy, he could be found watching his favourite team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, on television.

The 18-year-old left-winger considered himself to be a pretty good hockey player and was looking forward to starting the 2018-19 season with his hard-earned new skates.

As the regular season approached, McNamara was named the assistant captain of his hockey team, which only added to his motivation for a successful campaign — life couldn’t get any better.

But, on Sept. 25, 2018, everything changed in the blink of an eye.

McNamara was involved in a single-vehicle accident along Highway 4, between Thibeauville Road and Riverview Drive in River Bourgeois. The car he was driving left the road and struck a culvert, before coming to a rest in a grassy area.

He was transported to the Strait Richmond Hospital and later airlifted to the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.

McNamara was diagnosed with Diffuse Axonal Injury, which is a severe traumatic brain injury. He spent two months in a coma and doctors weren’t sure if he would be able to walk, talk or even feed himself again.

He would remain at the Halifax hospital in critical care until Jan. 3, 2019, and then went to the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre until May 31, before returning home to Cape Breton.

“It was a long haul for sure,” said Shannon McNamara, Spencer’s mother. “The last year has been a little chaotic.”

Despite the uncertainty, he never stopped believing in himself and pushed hard at rehab, with the goal of one day getting back on the ice and pitcher’s mound driving his spirits.


BIO

SPENCER MCNAMARA

  • Hometown: Louisdale, N.S.
  • Age: 18
  • Favourite Sports: Hockey and Baseball
  • Favourite Hockey Team: Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Favourite Player: Sidney Crosby

During his time at the rehab centre, McNamara was taught how to walk, talk, eat and regain the use of the left side of his body as well as regaining memory and many other things most people take for granted.

“The progress that he’s made since the accident has happened is really pretty miraculous,” said Shannon McNamara. “His prognoses in the beginning was not great, but the thought of sports is what kept him going.”

Although he’s back home, McNamara is continuing therapy at the Strait Richmond Hospital and has been walking since last summer.

Despite not being able to play hockey, McNamara still watches the sport and this weekend he will attend the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis, Mo., as part of the Children’s Wish Foundation.

McNamara’s wish was approved by the foundation in August. He will be attending the once-in-a-lifetime trip with his mother and siblings, older brother Riley and sister Olivia.

“It’s going to be very good to watch the best hockey players in the world,” he said. “I know I’m going to like it very much and I can’t wait to see the games.”

McNamara will be in attendance for the skills competition on Friday, while attending the games at Enterprise Centre on Saturday. Other surprise events are expected to take place for McNamara over the course of the two days.

“This is going to be my first NHL game and I thought if I can’t play hockey I might as well go and watch it,” said McNamara. “I’m pumped. It means the world to me right now — I don’t know what to expect, they never told me.”

Shannon McNamara was pleased to learn her son’s wish had been granted, at a time when things were quite hectic in the family’s life.

“Everything leading up to this weekend, it’s been something for our family to look forward to attending,” she said. “It’s nice to have something to look forward to, especially when this is likely the only time we’ll be able to do this as a family.”

Although his favourite player, Sidney Crosby, won’t be playing in the game, McNamara will have an opportunity to watch Penguins' defenceman Kris Letang, who will be the captain for the NHL’s Metropolitan Division at the event, as well as goaltender Tristan Jarry.

David Pastrnak (Boston), Mitch Marner (Toronto), Connor McDavid (Edmonton), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado), Patrick Kane (Chicago) and Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton) will also be among the star players McNamara will be watching at the event.

“I’m looking forward to having the chance to meet all the players,” he said. “It’s going to be amazing.”

Spencer McNamara won’t be the only person from Canada attending the All-Star Weekend through the Children’s Wish Foundation.

Seven-year-old Olivier, whose last name was not available, from Sherbrooke, Que., will also attend the game. He had kidney failure since birth and received a new kidney after being on the transplant list for only 11 days.

The McNamara family was expected to fly from Halifax to Toronto and then St. Louis on Thursday. They will be meeting Olivier and his family and attending events with them.

McNamara and his family will return to Nova Scotia Monday morning. They will remain in Halifax until Wednesday, as Spencer has appointments scheduled following the trip.

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