That Chris Solecki was able to forge a junior hockey career and play his way into the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League is a testament to his dedication and work ethic.
That he's still alive to be playing for the TRU WolfPack is what some might call a miracle.
Solecki, 21, made his WolfPack debut in Victoria on Saturday, stopping 30 shots in TRU's 6-5 victory over the host Vikes. The WolfPack is scheduled to play host to the Trinity Western Spartans on Friday, 8:30 p.m., at Memorial Arena.
Solecki is one of three goaltenders on the WolfPack's roster, but it's a safe bet that he's the one who has ever stared down an angry Grizzly bear.
It happened in the fall of 2005, when Solecki was 13. While walking in the bush on his family's cattle ranch about an hour southwest of Burns Lake - in a community called Grassy Plains - Solecki was attacked.
"We were out for a walk one afternoon, and we ran into this Grizzly bear," Solecki recalls. "I came around this tree, and maybe 100 feet away from me is a Grizzly bear running right toward me."
Chris's older brother, Matt, was walking behind Chris on the trail. When the boys saw the charging bear and turned, Matt was in front, and was able to run back to the house to get their father.
Chris sprinted as fast as he could, but the big bear quickly caught up.
"He came from behind me and bit me in the leg, my right leg, here," Chris says, pointing to the back of the leg. "He started swinging me around and broke my femur, here. Then he let go, and bit into the back of my head - he made two holes in my skull.
"Then he left me alone."
The bear also left Solecki alive.
"I was conscious for the whole thing," he says. "I never really thought about anything while it was happening - I was sort of a passenger in my body. It was a pretty unreal experience."
Fifteen-year-old Matt, meanwhile, barely stopped to look back as he hotfooted it away.
"He didn't really see too much of it," Chris says. "He did say that when he was running, he looked back and saw me getting thrown around by the bear. He said he thought it would be the last time he was going to see me alive. Luckily it wasn't."
Matt quickly found help - "we weren't really that far away from where my dad was working," Chris says - and Jon, the boys' father, carried Chris back to the house.
"I was taken by helicopter to Burns Lake," Chris says, "and then, later on, taken to Vancouver Children's Hospital."
Solecki ended up spending about a month in various hospitals. During his time in Vancouver, he was invited to be a VIP at a Canucks home game, and got to do a tour of the NHL team's dressing room.
But he still has a lot of reminders about the attack. Some of the scars are plainly visible.
"There's a big scar down the side of my leg," he says. "I had two long pins that went down the length of my femur. At first, they just removed all the pieces of bone that were broken in my head. Then I went back later, and they split the bone beside it and moved it over to cover it up. I have a big scar on the side of my head and another underneath it, from where his teeth were."
Fortunately, most of the damage healed over time.
"There really wasn't any damage to my brain - there was a piece of bone that got left in the brain, but apparently over time, it just dissolves," he says. "I had a little bit of numbness in my face and my right hand, I guess, but that went away over time."
The sprawling Solecki ranch raises cattle and, before the annual auction in Vanderhoof, had around 700 animals. It backs into the woods, giving the Solecki family a lot of room to roam.
It wasn't unusual to see black bears around the property.
"But that was the first time I'd seen a Grizzly bear around there," Chris says. "It's Grizzly bear territory, but I'd never actually seen one.
"They never caught him - they set up traps after it happened, but never caught him. But judging by the size of the paw-print, they estimated it was around 700 pounds."
What kept this particular Grizzly from killing Chris, he'll never know.
He's certainly grateful it did, even if the injuries forced him to miss a season of bantam hockey. He later ended up in Kelowna, playing a season at the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy, before joining the KIJHL's North Okanagan Knights.
He played two seasons there, and spent his final two junior seasons with the Fernie Ghostriders.
And now, he's at TRU, studying natural resource sciences. The goal is to go home again.
"I'm looking to take over my family's cattle ranch when I'm done," Solecki says. "I'm just coming to get some knowledge and find out stuff that might help me out in the future."
Solecki admits that he doesn't often think about the attack, nor does he think about the effects it had on his life - and hockey career.
"I did miss a season of hockey, but who knows what would have happened?" he says. "Maybe it made me work harder. Maybe I wouldn't have gone anywhere otherwise . . .
"I don't know if it made any difference. . . . But I was pretty lucky."