Feb. 23, 2008
Denfeld’s Frank Cederstrom is back
in action after a near-fatal accident
By Rick Weegman
Frank Cederstrom shuddered when he heard the words
that a 16-year-old never wants to hear — doctors telling him
that he would never play hockey again, and quite possibly never
In August 2006, Cederstrom lay in a hospital in
his hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska, suffering from injuries sustained
in a snowmobiling accident. Among his injuries were 23 broken bones,
a shattered pelvis and lower back, anddislocated hips and shoulders
after he flew past his landing board and crashed hissnowmobile
into the ground.
Just a year-and-a-half later, Cederstrom will
be on the ice at the Cloquet Area Recreation Center as Duluth Denfeld
(16-10) takes on Sauk Rapids-Rice (15-10-1) in a Section 5A high
school boys hockey semifinal at 6 p.m. today.
The Denfeld senior center is happy to have the
opportunity to again play the sport he loves.
That didn’t appear likely on that mid-August
day when Cederstrom went snowmobiling with friends a few miles outside
of Fairbanks, one day before he was scheduled to leave to play for
a Midget AAA hockey team in Houghton, Mich. Born and raised in Alaska,
Cederstrom loved theoutdoors and, despite a lackof snow, often
rode hissnowmobile on dirt trails. He also often, as on this occasion,
jumped his sled from ramp to ramp over a 25-foot space.
“I got carried away,misjudged my speed
and went too fast,” Cederstrom said. “I overshot the
landing by 10 feet and landed in the flats. It crushed my [snowmobile]
It also crushed several of Cederstrom’s
bones. He landed on the back of the snowmobile, which was virtually
vertical, and fell back on his tailbone. The end result was a litany
of broken bones and dislocations that left him in searing agony
as friends drove him to a hospital in a pickup truck.
“It was incredible; I passed out because
of the pain,” said Cederstrom, who popped his shoulders back
in their sockets during the drive. “I was in and out of consciousness
the whole ride there.”
Luckily, Cederstrom, who was wearing only a T-shirt
and jeans and no headgear, didn’t suffer any head trauma.
But his lower torso was so damaged that he says doctors weren’t
optimistic when they talked to him about his future.
“The doctors told me that with the way I
had fractures in my joints, I might never be able to use my legs
again because of the nerve damage,” he said. “It was
difficult to comprehend that, to go from being an athlete and having
fun every day to being told that you’re never going to walk
“They told me that any kind of physical
activity wasn’t in the future.”
Cederstrom was in a wheelchair for three months
and on crutches for another three, dropping from 170 pounds to 120.
He worked hard in rehabilitation, eventually becoming stronger and
more flexible and surprising doctors with his quick recovery.
“I didn’t take it lying down,”
he said. “I decided that I wasn’t going to let it beat
Cederstrom missed the first semester at West Valley
High School in Fairbanks, and then had trouble focusing on schoolwork
upon his return. A hockey and soccer player, Cederstrom said he
became depressed by not being able to play athletics and consequently
didn’t fare well in class.
When later talking to his aunt and uncle, Candy
and Darrell Barnack of Duluth, they suggested Cederstrom move to
Duluth for his senior year, rehabilitate and get his life back on
track. So Cederstrom left Fairbanks and enrolled at Denfeld last
October. He came out for captain’s practice, but nobody knew
who he was.
“The first time I caught wind of who Frank
Cederstrom was was when he walked in the athletic office and asked
about hockey,” Hunters coach Kevin Smalley said. “It’s
an incredible story. I looked at it as a terrific thing to be able
to help a kid through the injuries and trauma that he’s been
Smalley says Cederstrom has fit in as a third-line
center most of the season. He’s scored four goals and added
three assists for seven points, but Smalley said that’s not
an indication of his true value.
“When he came in here and we explained the
rules — that scholastics were No. 1 — he was willing
to accept those kinds of rules. That told us that this kid wants
an opportunity to prove himself,” Smalley said.
Cederstrom, now 18, says he eventually fit in
“It was rough at first; I had to gain everybody’s
respect,” he said. “After they saw me work hard at practice,
everyone accepted me.”
He says he’s still not 100 percent, and
the gruesome scar on his left wrist is one testament to his injuries.
He sat out Thursday’s 11-1 quarterfinal victory over Pine
City-Rush City because of a concussion, but expects to be back for
But what’s a concussion compared to what
he’s already been through?
Cederstrom has remained upbeat throughout his
ordeal. He even hopped back on a snowmobile before getting up on
skates to prove to himself that he wouldn’t be afraid to live
life with the same gusto as before.
“I take every day as a gift,” he said,
“because I don’t know when it’s going to end.”