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Aaron Volpatti: From the Ice to the Page - A Journey of Healing and Resilience

Written by: Tomas Morgan

In the world of professional ice hockey, Aaron Volpatti was known for his gritty play and unwavering determination. A former Vancouver Canuck and Washington Capital, Volpatti made his mark on the ice as a tough and fearless forward. However, his story goes far beyond the rink. As a teenager, Volpatti suffered life-threatening burns that almost ended his hockey career and once he hung up his skates after a long pro career, he embarked on a new chapter in life, one that led him to become an author and advocate for mental health.

For many professional athletes, the transition to life after sports can be a daunting challenge. After retiring from the NHL, Volpatti initially found work in health management. It was during this time that he began to confront trauma and adversity that extended beyond the realm of hockey. Like many others, he grappled with the question of what to do next.

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing people around the world to reflect on their lives and priorities. It was during this period of reflection that Volpatti had a powerful realization. Sitting on a park bench, he had a vivid vision that he should write a book. People had often told him that he had a compelling story to share, and this moment was the catalyst for his journey into authorship.

Writing a book is no small feat, especially for someone who comes from a world where men are often expected to be strong and not talk about their feelings. Volpatti, however, embraced the challenge. He found that writing "Fighter," his memoir, was a therapeutic process. Just as he had learned to push through physical and mental adversity on the ice, he now had to navigate the spiritual adversity that came after his hockey career.

"Fighter" not only chronicles Volpatti's hockey journey but also delves into his experiences with mental health and resilience. By opening up about his own struggles, he has created a space for others to share their stories and seek help. Volpatti's courage in discussing mental health has made a significant impact on many lives, helping to break down the stigma surrounding mental health issues in the sports world and beyond.

As part of his book tour, Aaron Volpatti travelled to every city where he had played in the NHL. It was a journey that allowed him to reconnect with people he had called teammates, coaches, and mentors. It was a way of revisiting the past while embracing the present.

One of the highlights of his NHL career was reaching the Stanley Cup Final with the Vancouver Canucks. Despite not playing in the playoffs, he was part of the team as a "black ace." He vividly remembers the intense atmosphere of Game 7 and the unfortunate riots that followed after the team's loss. It was a moment in hockey history that left an indelible mark on both the city and its fans.

Throughout his hockey journey, several coaches played pivotal roles in shaping Volpatti's career. His junior coach, Mike Vandekamp, instilled in him a strong work ethic and a hate-to-lose mentality. In the NHL, he appreciated coaches like Alain Vigneault, who provided clear communication and honest feedback to players.

But where did this journey begin? His journey to the NHL began in his hometown of Revelstoke, where he was a daring and fearless daredevil from a young age. A life-altering moment from his youth involves a reckless escapade with fire, where he narrowly escaped disaster with severe burns. It was an experience that would change his life and perspective forever.

In hindsight, Volpatti believes that this traumatic event unlocked a hidden strength within him, a "superpower" of resilience and determination. It taught him the incredible power of the human mind to overcome adversity and without it he believes he would have never made the NHL.

Aaron Volpatti's story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. From his early days in Revelstoke to his time in the NHL and his courageous journey into authorship and mental health advocacy, he has shown that strength comes in many forms. As he continues to make the world a safer space for discussing mental health, his story serves as an inspiration to all those facing their own battles, on and off the ice.

To hear more about Valpatti’s journey listen to episode #156 on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. You can also watch on YouTube.

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