Hero is a word that tends to be over-used in our modern society, particularly in the world of sport. We all have our own “heroes”, the sportsmen and women that inspire us through their performances in their field and their achievements. But if we look closer, how many of them deserve such a designation?
For me, being a true hero takes more than just ability in your sport. It takes more than being in glossy magazines. It is about achievement against the odds, making it when nobody gave you a chance. There is one sportsman who I have had the pleasure of watching ply his trade for the past year who I think fits into the category in its truest sense, and that man is David Alexandre Beauregard. Those of you who are not British ice hockey fans will probably never have heard of him, because he is not a superstar by any means, even within his own sport. He plays in a backwater of ice hockey, the British Elite League, not in the top professional leagues around the world. But – he plays and that is why he deserves the tag of hero.
For those not familiar with his story, here it is in brief. From a young age, growing up in Montreal, Canada, David Alexandre Beauregard was regarded as a good prospect in his country’s national game. He was a prolific goalscorer and a hardworking player throughout his junior career and, despite his relative lack of size for the top levels of ice hockey, he was drafted to the NHL (the world’s best league). It looked as though his dream of playing at the highest level might, perhaps, be realised. But the following season, disaster struck. During a game, Beauregard found himself on a breakaway, but the defenceman he had left trailing in his wake flailed his stick and somehow managed to inflict an injury that left Beauregard blind in his left eye. Incredibly, he carried on and scored on that breakaway before going to the bench for treatment! It looked as though his dreams and career were over, but Beauregard was more determined than that. Although NHL rules prohibit a player with partial sight from being registered, after a long period of recovery and adaptation, he returned to the ice where he learned to compensate and continued his professional career. Accepting that he could not make the big time, he carved out a successful career in the North American minor leagues, maintaining his reputation as a goalscorer. In 2008 he came to the UK to play in Manchester, where he ended as the league’s top scorer and, after a season in Europe, returned to this country last summer, joining my team, the Nottingham Panthers.
For the whole of last season, I had the privilege of watching David Alexandre Beauregard perform with distinction in the Panthers’ black and gold colours. Far from being just a goal poacher, he was one of the most consistent and hardest working players in the squad. During the season, a game was stopped to celebrate him scoring his 500th professional goal, a remarkable achievement considering his background. The season ended on a huge high for him and the team – the Panthers picked up their second trophy of the year as they won the Playoff Championship, with Beauregard scoring the cup winning goal. Despite talk of retirement, he has recently signed up for another season, to the delight of myself and all other Panthers fans.
In an age where words like “hero” are bandied about all too freely, and many sports stars seem to use their ability as merely a stepping stone to achieving celebrity status, while being anything but positive role models for those who hero-worship them, men like David Alexandre Beauregard deserve all the recognition they can get. They sum up the determination, work ethic and pride that are what sport is all about.
Personally, I suffer from an eye condition that has required surgery, needs constant treatment and has to be managed to prevent me losing my sight before the age of fifty. An extra reason to admire this hockey player, who epitomises courage and perseverance against the odds. In his own words: I still play because I still love to play. I get up in the morning and I can’t wait to go to practice. The pay is pretty good, and it’s a fine game. I’ll play as long as I can.