Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore subscribes to the theory that everything happens for a reason, and a failed drug test may have saved his life.
As he revealed in a post on The Players Tribune on Friday, the 24-year-old underwent offseason surgery to treat testicular cancer after elevated hCG levels tipped off doctors to his early diagnosis.
The 2013 first-round pick, who was later selected by Vegas in their 2017 expansion draft, did not reveal when he might return to the ice but is eager nonetheless. Theodore was one of the Golden Knights’ main contributors last season; his 37 points ranked eighth on the team, and he was one of two non-goalies to average more than 20 minutes on the ice per game.
Early detection by way of a drug test
After his Golden Knights were knocked out in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Theodore got to represent Canada in the IIHF World Championship, where he scored 7 points in 10 games. Moments after earning a silver medal, an official brought him aside, which generally is the sign of a random drug test.
This caught Theodore by surprise, considering he had already undergone a test earlier in the tournament. What came next was far more unexpected; officials said he had failed a drug test before the quarterfinals because of elevated hormone levels usually only found in pregnant women or men with testicular cancer.
Theodore returned home, and the diagnosis was confirmed. The British Columbia native remained in shock, but he had dealt with cancer before, as his grandmother beat breast cancer, and his grandfather overcame both kidney and prostate cancer.
Theodore finds strength in the hockey community
Theodore isn’t the first hockey player to face such a grim diagnosis at a young age. Arizona Coyotes right winger Phil Kessel beat testicular cancer after his rookie season and was awarded the 2006-07 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy after returning.
In a moment of serendipity, Theodore golfed at Shadow Creek a few days before undergoing the surgery and ran into Kessel. And although Theodore didn't build up the courage to tell him about the diagnosis, Kessel texted him days later after being tipped off by their mutual agent.
Going through this battle has been enlightening for Theodore. The support he felt from teammates on the Golden Knights and Team Canada helped him through the worst moments, and he allowed himself to be in touch with his emotions.
“As young men, as hockey players, we don’t always like to be vulnerable,” Theodore wrote. “Even with stuff as serious as cancer, we like to put on a brave face and pretend everything is normal. That’s what we’re good at. The big stuff, life and death — it’s almost too much to process. But for me, everything gets real when I think about all the little things that could’ve been taken away from me.”
Whenever he returns to the ice, Theodore pledged to donate an unspecified amount of money to help early detection for every point he scores this season, which kicks off on Oct. 2. The Vegas Golden Knights Foundation plans to match him dollar-for-dollar and will help raise money and early detection awareness.
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