WDAY: The News Leader

Published November 15, 2010, 08:21 AM

Lakers hockey team dedicates season to Hochstetler

Detroit Lakes, Minn. (WDAY TV) - It's a new season and a new year; one without a major player on the ice. The Detroit Lakes boy's hockey team is dedicating its season to Landon Hochstetler. He's recovering from being hit by a car while rollerblading this fall.

His hockey coach calls him a naturally gifted kid. One who'd never really played organized hockey before Head Coach Chris Denardo found him while scouring rinks for talent a couple years ago. In turn finding a down to earth, home-schooled, lanky, and lovable kid who is a big part of his roster.

The pucks were flying at the Detroit Lakes hockey team's season kick-off practice, but a major void in the high-energy skate.

COACH CHRIS DENARDO: "He's one of those kids, you could leave him on the ice the whole game and he'd probably still be, he'd be going just as hard at the end as he was at the start."

ANDY: "I was actually really surprised with how good he was because it was my first year skating with him last year and he showed a lot of potential."

This so-called spark plug is no longer in pads and skates: 17-year-old Landon Hochstetler is rehabilitating in the Twin Cities after getting run over by a car rollerblading on September 13th. It was a moment that rocked this tight-knit group.

COACH DENARDO: "You're thinking, 'Oh my God, that's pretty serious!' "

NATE: "Something that just really brought us all down to earth, thinking that could happen to any one of us."

ANDY: "Just kind of feels like he shouldn't be gone!"

And Landon's presence won't be that far away. They're putting his number, number 21, on all of their helmets so he'll be right out there skating with them.

ALEX: "He earned respect from us by playing hard everyday, trying his best. I just think it's something good to do."

NATE: "Feel like we're going to go out and play every game for him, just like if it would've happened to anyone else, they would've done that for us too."

So when this band of boys hits the ice, every drop pass and deke will be for one fighting friend.

COACH DENARDO: "Hockey comes secondary. The kind of kid he is, is the hardest thing to replace right now."

I talked to Landon's family today. The good news is he's out of a coma and off the ventilator, but making small steps. He's starting to respond to commands by squeezing his hand and opening his eyes. Plus, the whole team is going to get to see Landon after a December St. Cloud hockey tournament.