By Brandon Gillet
Eleven years ago, at age 24, Sébastien Savage’s unfolding hockey career came to a sudden end. Knocked down by a falling opponent, he slid head-first into the boards and was left paralyzed from the chest down.
At the time, Savage was a Université de Moncton student and right-winger on the varsity hockey team, the Moncton Aigles Bleus. The native of St. Albert, Ont., played for seven teams over the course of a seven-year career, including the Ottawa 67’s, who made it to the 2001 Memorial Cup.
Before the accident, he had wanted to become a police officer, but events forced a rethink. At Spring Convocation on Sunday, Savage will receive his Honours BA in Psychology with a Minor in Criminology.
His recovery consisted of four years of intense physical rehabilitation. Eventually, he began to think about his post-hockey professional life.
“I was doing a lot of physio for a few years after the accident, then started to do a few correspondence courses through Athabasca University,” he said.
Five years at uOttawa
In time, he decided to try on-campus studies again and has been at uOttawa on and off for five years as a part-time student. “It was good getting into a routine and attending classes,” he said.
While getting to some of those classes in his wheelchair was sometimes difficult, the Access Service was there to help as best as they could. “The services are in place, and I always had someone to go to for help,” he said.
Savage has regained the use of his arms since the accident and feels he is getting stronger every day. “The strength of my arms has improved greatly and, really, [so has] the overall strength of my upper body. I’m also living by myself now, which has given me a chance to try new things.”
Mental fortitude has also been an essential part of his success. The long road to his degree has definitely been a struggle, but he is glad to have put in the effort.
“It’s a good accomplishment — I wasn’t sure if I would finish,” he said. “It was slow at first but, in the last year and a half, it came together, and I am certainly happy.”
Savage is keeping his options open and might pursue graduate studies. But if he is offered a good job in his field of study, he would be happy to revise his goals again and take that path.