John Pontiff is a regular at the Ice Chalet in Knoxville. You can catch him skating with a stick in his hands and a puck at his feet. He's all about hockey, and according to him, hockey is all about action.
"It's the fastest sport there is," said Pontiff. "You're out here sprinting for the entire time you're on the ice."
Pontiff spent a lot of time on the ice when he was younger, visiting his grandfather and playing on ponds in Upstate New York, playing in pee wee and rec leagues back home. He was never afraid to rough it up a bit.
"It's kind of a matter of pride, taking off your gear and seeing all your bruises you've got."
Pontiff said being on the ice means more to him.
"It's kind of a sense of freedom. It's hard for me to run with previous injuries I've had."
The injuries weren't from a hard check, they came in a country half a world away.
"I was wounded in Iraq," said Pontiff, "I broke my back in five places."
A veteran of the Iraq War, Pontiff and a small group were hit by an IED in 2004.
"I woke up on a helicopter on the way to the hospital."
Coming back from an injury as severe as that would be difficult for anyone. Pontiff was no exception.
"It took a lot of determination."
His main driving force?
"Just wanted to be myself again."
It would take months for Pontiff to be able to walk without assistance. To play the sport he's loved for so much of his life?
He won't be taking his skates or the ice for granted anytime soon. It's a reminder of how far he's come, an opportunity to be himself.
"There's such an adrenaline rush. I glide, I fly!"
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