In a new book, former Vancouver Canucks forward Aaron Volpatti details how he defied the odds to make the NHL.
The autobiography, appropriately titled “FIGHTER: Defying The NHL Odds,” is available on his website (aaronvolpatti.com) starting Oct. 25.
For 54 days after the book’s release (matching his Canucks jersey number), the Revelstoke-raised Volpatti will donate 40 per cent of the book-sale profits to Vancouver’s Burn Fund Centre, many years after 40 per cent of his body was covered in third- and second-degree burns on a junior hockey-era camping accident in Vernon.
This fall he’s also planning a promo tour of book stores and hockey rinks, including the Canucks-Kings game Nov. 18 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
The book details Volpatti’s career from Revelstoke Grizzlies to the NHL, and his unique, turbulent and inspiring road to hockey’s biggest stage. He played 114 games in the NHL for Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals before retiring in 2015.
At age 16, Volpatti was paying Junior B hockey with Revelstoke Grizzlies, and the rough-and-tumble nature of Kootenay International Junior Hockey League suited his style of play. That got him noticed by Vernon Vipers, where he played on the fourth line.
At the end of his second season with the Vipers, the players went camping as a sendoff for players moving on. Volpatti was messing around with some gas and fire. Seriously burned, he was airlifted to a Vancouver hospital to enter intensive care, and remained there for weeks.
He was told he’d never play competitive hockey again, but Brown University came calling for the kind of “grinder” Volpatti had become in junior leagues.
He thought of all the reasons he couldn’t play hockey that fall: skin grafts, intense pain, the risk of infection. He made a decision that those reasons weren’t good enough to keep him from chasing his dream.
“If you’re telling me it’s going to hurt, well I’ve already been through that,” Volpatti recalled. “I was willing to die before giving up on that dream.”
Volpatti said that moment put him on the path to discovering what was truly possible through visualization and creating a deep sense of self-belief.
At Brown, he played 123 college games, captained the team in his senior year, earned a bachelors degree in Human Biology and set a school record for most penalty minutes in a season.
Graduated, a 24-year-old Volpatti then signed a contract with the Canucks and scored his first NHL goal on Dec. 20, 2010.
He’d made it.
But just a few years later, a neck injury sidelined his pro career for good. Volpatti experienced a loss of identity, and went through some spiritual adversity. When the COVID-19 pandemic began and he found himself locked inside, the next chapter of his life appeared before him.
During the writing of the autobiography, Volpatti began working as a cognitive performance coach for athletes, teaching his unique visualization techniques to help others cope with performance anxiety, lack of confidence and self-doubt.
-with files from Josh Piercey, Black Press Media