Athletics & Recreation

Heart condition freezes hockey career but gives player a mission

David Carle is glad this story isn’t an obituary — more specifically, his obituary.

It easily could have been.

Carle, a freshman at the University of Denver, was a top recruit and scholarship recipient to play hockey for the Pioneers this fall. But this summer doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., shared some bad news with Carle: He has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — a thickening of the heart that can kill athletes suddenly.

In fact, the Center for Disease Control reports that every year 100,000 young athletes die from cardio-vascular disorders just from playing their respective sports.

That leaves Carle off the ice but on a clear mission: to spread the word about these disorders.

“I think the main thing I can do now is to get the word out that athletes need to get tested,” says Carle says. “A good start is to get an EKG [electrocardiogram]. That will usually show any problems. And if you have any family history, you must get tested.”

His newly adopted duty is a way of coping with what has been a devastating blow at the start of a blossoming career in hockey.

The last name may sound familiar to hockey fans. Carle’s brother is Matt Carle, a former Pioneer standout and two-time All-American who plays with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. Matt is DU’s first and only Hobey Baker Award winner.

Some say David was following his brother’s tracks and was a lock for a pro career.

“He was on the road to being a very good player,” says DU head hockey coach George Gwozdecky.

Carle says what he misses most now is proving his value on the ice.

“I really wanted to prove people wrong. A lot of people doubted me. I do miss the game. I did get better and I always believed in myself.”

When Carle and his father broke the news to Gwozdecky about the diagnosis, Gwozdecky called Athletics Vice Chancellor Peg Bradley-Doppes, who was out of town. They quickly agreed to honor Carle’s scholarship and make him part of DU’s hockey program.

“Without any prompting on my part, Peg immediately says DU would still offer the scholarship,” Gwozdecky says. “We were on the same page, and frankly it was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. We wanted him to be a part of the team.”

Carle says that decision was “an act of human kindness that needs to be known.”

Today Carle serves as a student assistant coach with the team and handles video and writing about hockey and

Carle adds that he doesn’t know what the future holds.

“I’m keeping an open mind. Maybe I’ll coach or maybe not,” he says. “I’m just hoping to find something I’m passionate about.”

When asked what he’s learned from the experience, he says, “It’s put things perspective. I really haven’t lived a hard life, so it makes me realize what’s important: to enjoy the little things day to day.”

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