Bow's Sam Daley recovering from brain surgery
Sam Daley felt like something wasn’t right. Starting in October, Daley occasionally felt a tingling and numbness in his hand or on his left side.
Daley, a goalie on New York University’s club hockey team, returned home to Bow for winter break and was told by doctors on New Year’s Eve that his condition, originally thought to be a pinched nerve, was a brain tumor.
On their drive back home from an appointment at Concord Hospital, the Daleys received a call asking Sam to return for a second MRI.
“They called us back before we got home and right then I knew it wasn’t going to be good because you don’t get called right away for nothing,” said Leslie Daley.
The doctors told Sam later that night he had a brain tumor and needed emergency brain surgery to remove it.
“Obviously, it was pretty tough. Nobody really wants to hear that ... it didn’t really seem like something that would ever really happen, to me at least,” Sam said.
“It’s like being kicked in the stomach. It’s not something you can prepare yourself for,” said Sam’s father, Jack Daley.
Daley, a former star goalie at Bishop Brady of Concord, had surgery Jan. 7 at Massachusetts General Hospital. Surgeons were able to completely remove the tumor, which was the size of an apricot located near Sam’s spinal cord and cerebellum in the fourth ventricle of his brain. Daley and his family received word from doctors on Jan. 16 that his tumor was benign and that he does not need further treatment.
“Honestly, we were very happy and encouraged because of the success of the surgery, but we didn’t dare exhale,” Jack Daley said. “The surgeon said it seemed like it was not going to be cancerous but we had to wait for the pathology ... you’re almost afraid to hope it’s going to be benign until you know for sure. When we did, it was like winning the lottery, Christmas and everything you can imagine all at once.”
And now, Sam Daley is hopeful that someday he can return to the goal for NYU.
The day before his surgery, Sam Daley received a video from his college coaches, teammates and NYU club hockey alumni, all wishing him well and to stay strong.
“I don’t think I could have asked for anything more from them,” said Sam. “I didn’t have any idea they were doing anything like that. It was amazing to watch, especially right beforehand, right before I went into surgery.”
Jack Daley said that he, Sam and Leslie were all pretty frightened heading into what MGH surgeon Dr. Brian Nahed called a dangerous and difficult operation.
“Sam thought he wasn’t going to wake up from the operation and I was having a nervous breakdown,” said Leslie Daley.
Sam was taken out of his room for the 6½-hour surgery at 6:30 a.m. and his parents didn’t see him again until 6 p.m. in the intensive care unit. He was released from MGH on Jan. 10 and quickly received a visit from his old high school and juniors coach, Clint Edinger. Both Edinger and NYU head coach Chris Cosentino have been in constant contact with Sam over the last several weeks.
“Spirit-wise, Sam is the hardest working kid I’ve ever trained or coached,” said Edinger, who was the head coach at Bishop Brady from 2004-13. Edinger is the U18 head coach of the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs and coached Daley during the goaltender’s one season with the team from 2011-12.
“If I know Sam as well as I think I do, he’s probably more devastated that he’s letting his teammates down,” said Edinger. “Those guys rely on him and he’s a big part of the team but emotionally he’s not going to show you that. The kid is a warrior.”
The Green Giants reached at least the state quarterfinals all three of Daley’s seasons in net from 2009-11. After a year at Bow High School, he transferred to Bishop Brady his sophomore year.
NYU has made the Super East Collegiate Hockey League tournament each of Daley’s first two seasons. The Violets own a 13-6-1 record this year.
“The first half (of this season) we were being very careful with his minutes,” said Cosentino. “The second half, he was probably going to be in there every day.
“It’s tough for him because this was his year to really step up and take center stage as a junior ... he’s strong enough to handle this and he will. I can’t think of another person I’d want to be our starting goaltender.”
Daley posted a 9-3 record and a .913 save percentage before the winter break.
Since arriving back home in Bow after the surgery, he has received support from former Brady teammates such as Connor Gillan and Paul Hickey and both the Green Giants’ and Falcons’ hockey families.
“We’re speechless and humbled over the support ... one of the (Bow High School hockey) parents found out what (Daley’s) favorite restaurant was and all of a sudden we had $210 worth of restaurant gift cards for Sam to get him out of the house so he’s not bored,” said Jack Daley.
Daley has also received some uplifting messages through Twitter from those he’s never shared the ice with.
Los Angeles Kings and former Manchester Monarchs goaltender Jonathan Quick, the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, New York Islanders and the University of New Hampshire men’s club hockey team have sent their best wishes to Daley via Twitter using the hashtag #DaleyStrong.
The NHL sent him a care package while he was recovering at MGH. Members of the UNH club hockey team have started skating with a purple and gray ribbon-shaped decal that reads “Daley Strong” on the back of their helmets. The hashtag was created by the NYU club hockey team and the news of his operation and recovery quickly spread throughout the hockey community.
“You see it happen other times with other people on TV and see them all reach out and do that kind of stuff but you don’t know how to appreciate it until they do something like that for you,” said Daley of the support. “The hockey community is something else when it comes to that and it’s one of the things that makes it so great.”
Daley has been told by doctors that he could return to the ice in as early as five or six weeks and he plans to return to NYU on Friday. NYU’s spring semester started on Monday. Academically, Daley’s professors have been working with him to make sure he does not fall behind in his classes. He is studying biology and said he hopes to enroll in dental school after graduation.
“The teachers understand I’m a hard-working kid that has had some bad luck and that’s kind of helped me a lot too,” he said.
It is unlikely that Daley puts on the pads for another regular-season game this year, but he did get the chance to reunite with his teammates last weekend.
He went to see his fellow Violets play at UMass on Saturday and at Northeastern on Sunday. The Violets skated to a 3-3 tie with UMass’ club team and a 5-4 overtime loss to the Huskies’ club unit. During the first intermission against UMass, the Minutemen welcomed Daley to the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass., and presented him with a jersey signed by their entire team.
In both games, Violets players skated with “#DaleyStrong” patches on the back of their jerseys just above their last names. Cosentino said the players will wear the patches throughout the rest of the season.
“It was such a refreshing sight to see him is the best way to put it,” said Cosentino with a strain in his voice. “I couldn’t really put words to it. It was a sigh of relief just to see him walking and he looked fine. He looked strong, looked healthy. It was great to see him and see him that way, not in a hospital bed or a wheelchair.”
Daley will rejoin his teammates at the Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers in New York City on Friday for “Daley Strong Night” as the Violets host arch-rival William Paterson University. Cosentino said the team is expecting a standing-room-only crowd for the game.
Daley, who has played hockey since age 6, is not sure when he will suit up and mind the NYU net again, but he can’t wait for the moment to come.
“My first game, whenever that is, hopefully as soon as possible, it’s going to be real special not just for me but for the team, the fans, (my) family, everybody really,” Sam said. “It’s something I will never forget.”