NORTH SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The beginning of Ben Sexton’s professional hockey career has not been the smoothest of transitions. The Providence forward has been besieged by injuries that have slowed his progression and forced him to seemingly start from scratch on several occasions.
Things took a detour shortly after Sexton, a seventh-round pick of the Bruins in 2009, kicked off his first full season with Providence last fall.
During a preseason game against the Springfield Falcons, Sexton fractured his ankle and did not return until mid-January. He ended the season with three goals and nine assists in 35 games.
As he began to build some traction with Providence this season, Sexton once again found himself taking a step back. A hand injury in October required surgery and kept him sidelined for about a month.
After playing six games, Sexton suffered yet another injury – this time to his wrist – and did not return to action until Feb. 20.
But since then, the 24-year-old has been back in the lineup for all but one game and is hoping now he can start moving his development forward. The support of his teammates and the staff in Providence has helped him stay in good spirits through a difficult period of his career.
“I’ve had a little bit of the injury bug throughout my first two years here that has been a little bump in the road, but I’ve had great support from the medical staff, to the coaching staff, to the management,” Sexton said after a recent Providence Bruins practice at the Rhode Island Sports Center.
“Just coming to the rink every day knowing that the guys are there for support, it makes everything go by smoother.”
Maintaining that positive outlook has fueled his ability to persevere through the setbacks.
“The injuries that I’ve had have kind of been traumatic injuries,” said Sexton. “I’ve kind of come to grasp that there’s nothing that I can actually control about that. You don’t get anywhere having a negative attitude. I’m convinced that having a positive attitude and working your hardest, you can heal from them a lot quicker.
“The support from our medical staff and the help of the guys who keep the spirits up – because obviously there’s down days – the combination of all of it has helped me a lot.”
Sexton, who has tallied two goals and an assist through 23 games this season, characterizes himself as a hardworking, well-rounded player. And as a kid growing up in Kanata, Ontario, he followed his share of Ottawa Senators that fit that description.
“I watched Mike Fisher and Daniel Alfredsson for a while,” said Sexton. “Obviously Alfredsson’s retired now, but Mike Fisher’s a guy that I kind of model my game after – 200-foot player that plays hard.
“My dad always told me that this was a guy that I should watch and I just started to follow him and really liked the way he played. He was my favorite player.”
The molding of his game began in earnest during his four-year stint at Clarkson University, where Sexton notched 24 goals and 61 assists in 102 games and was named the team’s MVP for his senior season. He also served as captain as a junior and senior.
“My dad played college hockey [at St. Lawrence University] and I kind of knew about the rivalry growing up with where my dad went to school,” said Sexton, whose father, Randy, is currently the Co-Director of Amateur Scouting for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I don’t think he was too happy with my choice, but at the end of the day it was the right suit for me. I chose it because it has a great business program, they had a tradition of producing professional hockey players, and the proximity to home. I was able to have buddies come down on weekends to watch games, have family come down.
“My four years [there] were the best four years of my life. I really grew up as an individual. The friendships that I made there will last me a lifetime.”
One of those friendships is with Providence teammate Brandon DeFazio, who was a senior with the Golden Knights when Sexton was a freshman. The two are now roommates and share a close connection with many of their fellow P-Bruins.
“It’s been a great experience coming to Providence,” said Sexton. “We have a great group of guys this year; we had a great group last year. But there’s something special about this group this year that I hope we can make a great run out of it. I have nothing but positive things to say.”
Sexton is looking forward to finishing this season strongly and has hope that his National Hockey League debut is not far off.
He believes a simple outlook – the same one that helped him overcome so many obstacles – will carry him to his dream.
“You’ve got to have fun with it,” said Sexton. “We have older guys that come to the rink every day that have a blast with the game and it never should get old, it should always be fun.
“If you put your mind to anything and outwork anybody you can get to wherever you want to go. The combination of fun and hard work will get you where you want to go.”