MANNHEIM, Germany -- Reality hit for Jochen Hecht as the cheers washed over him on Monday morning.
Wearing a gray (non-contact) sweater, Hecht was striding onto the ice at the end of Buffalo's hour-long open practice at SAP Arena and the crowd -- a mix of Buffalo fans that made the trip and local Adler Mannheim supporters -- whistled and cheered in appreciation for the local hero.
However, it was a bittersweet moment as Hecht, a Mannheim native, had missed the practice, unable to participate because of a recurrence of concussion symptoms. In that moment, he knew his dream of playing against the team he supported as a child and played for as a young man -- and in front of fans that adore him -- officially was over.
"I was looking forward to this all summer," Hecht said. "The way it has worked out now is a little bit disappointing. But, that is the way it is. I have to get healthy for the season."