SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – It was a snowy day on December 27th, 2012. It was also a day that David Cloutier’s life changed forever. Cloutier was driving down the highway when he saw an accident on the side of the road. He got out of his car to help. Not long after Cloutier was crushed between a minivan and a chevy silverado.
“And then everything just went really quiet,” Cloutier said. “I rested my head on the ground and I accepted at 24-years-old I was going to die in the middle of the road.”
While lying in the road, thinking about meeting the end, Cloutier heard a voice that said, “David you can either meet me as a boy or a man.”
Cloutier was in a coma for 18 days. When he woke up he had seven surgeries, a collapsed lung, broken ribs, and a broken back. And he lost his right leg. While adjusting to his new life, Cloutier started to lose hope.
“I did have a time or two that I considered killing myself,” Cloutier said.
The 31-year-old survivor had times when he didn’t want to carry on with life. It wasn’t until he was introduced to sled hockey that his mind changed. As a child, Cloutier always wanted to play hockey, but he couldn’t afford to play. Sled hockey fulfilled his childhood dream of being on the ice. The only difference was he was on a sled with two small sticks with metal picks on the end. The sport made him feel like he belonged.
“You live in a city and you see people out and about and you don’t really feel normal and then all of a sudden you’re surrounded by people that a lot of them have been born with their elements and some people can relate to losing everything,” Cloutier said.
Susan Arnold is the program coordinator for the CNY Sled Hockey Flyers. Arnold has been working for the program for over 10 years. She has seen a lot of change in Cloutier over the years.
“When he first came he was quiet he’s not anymore he’s probably one of the loudest on the ice but in a good way,” Arnold said.
Arnold says during games before the players take the ice, when they are all in the huddle and give the shout, Dave is always the one that leads it.
“He’s got the voice for it, and you can feel it they all feel it,” Arnold said.