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Back on track

After being sidelined for a year for medical reasons, Martin Reway returned to action at the Canadiens rookie camp on Thursday

by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

BROSSARD - Life has a funny way of throwing curveballs when you're least expecting them. That's something that Canadiens prospect Martin Reway knows all too well.

A week before he was supposed to depart for rookie camp last year, Reway, 22, started feeling unwell and developed a high fever. When he went for a routine check-up, doctors diagnosed him with a serious heart condition brought on by a virus. They ordered him to rest and recover, a process which led to him sitting out the entire 2016-17 hockey season.

"I realized that it wasn't a good situation. I hope it doesn't happen to anyone here again. It's tough mentally to think about things you wouldn't have to think about if it didn't happen to you," he recalled. "It changes you a lot, but not on the ice."

Given that the young forward was forced to give up his profession and passion, it's no surprise that the ordeal was a challenge, psychologically, for Reway. He felt he had lost control.

"I wasn't able to do any workouts, any movement for the first three or four months," he added. "When you're a hockey player, or another kind of athlete, you know how hard it is to stop doing what you love."

On the plus side, Reway, who spent the year in Slovakia, got to enjoy some unexpected family time. He caught up on sleep and, when boredom from missing practice overtook him, he kept busy studying economics, which he had been doing while playing hockey in Europe. That said, Reway realized his calling was somewhere other than the textbooks.

"I hope I won't have to study anymore," he cracked. "I'm not interested!"

The toughest thing one can do when faced with a potentially career-ending illness is stay positive and keep a lookout for that light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Impressively, Reway was able to do just that, and keep faith he'd come out the other side.

"Obviously, I was wondering what would happen if I couldn't play hockey anymore, but most of the time, I had a good feeling I was going to come back," he remembered. "[I knew] it was possible from the beginning. I was lucky enough that I'm young and I rested my body well."

That positive attitude eventually helped yield the results Reway was hoping for, even if a whole year of playing puck ended up passing him by. Five weeks ago, he underwent testing and was cleared for play. What's more, after consulting with many doctors, the consensus is that the condition that once ailed him should present no further risk as he resumes his quest to play in the NHL.

Video: Martin Reway on making his comeback

The Canadiens rookie camp got underway on Thursday in Brossard, providing Reway his first formal chance to hit the ice at the Bell Sports Complex since being given the green light, and the native of Prague couldn't have been more thrilled to be there.

"It was nice to be back, even in the dressing room with the boys," said an elated Reway. "Simple feelings that you didn't think about when you're able to be a part of the team, so now I'm more excited to be with the guys and joke around in the locker room. It's the simple things that make me happy now."

The native of Prague, Czech Republic understands that getting clearance to play was just one step of the way, and realizes it'll take some time to get his legs back. Still, Reway is confident that with the support of the organization's coaching and training staff, he should be up to speed before long.

"I was surprised that my hands weren't as bad as I expected. The legs and cardio weren't that good, but that's understandable after a year of not playing," he noted. "I think it's getting better every day."

Reway, who split the 2015-16 season between HC Sparta Praha in the Czech Extraliga and HC Fribourg-Gottéron of Switzerland's National League, has made it his goal to crack the lineup in Montreal, and intends on staying in the area to play with the AHL's Laval Rocket if that doesn't pan out. Either way, the 5-foot-8, 171-pounder doesn't want anything handed to him on a silver platter.

"They will see. I'm pretty sure that with time, and if I get the opportunity I can show I'm able to play with [the Canadiens]. But I don't want to be there just because of what happened to me - because it'd make for a good story - I want to earn my place."

The Canadiens' youth movement will be in Toronto for the rookie tournament Friday and Saturday, and Reway knows it's a chance to show what he's made of.

"It's a great opportunity not only just for me, but for everybody," he explained. "I want to be able to make a good impression in both games, and try to move on to the pro camp afterwards."

Words of poise and confidence spoken from a man who knows a thing or two about staying focused on the ultimate goal, whatever that goal may be.

"In life, sometimes things happen that you can't change, and they're going to happen whether or not you want them to," concluded Reway, who said he was thankful for the backing and support he got from the Canadiens organization. "You have to fight it. I'm really happy I came through."

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