St. Paul Johnson's Carl Fish (RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER, Star Tribune)
Carl Fish was skating in practice when he suffered the first injury.
Fish ran into a rut in the ice at St. Paul Johnson, hit the boards and was struck by a teammate right after.
Players and coaches looked on as Fish lay on the ice for what would later be diagnosed as a meniscus tear in his left knee in January 2016, his sophomore season.
“My two leg bones were scraping up on each other,” Fish said. “When I went in [for surgery], I didn’t have an ACL and that’s why my meniscus tore.” Fish had reconstructive surgery, and had one of his hamstrings substituted for his missing ACL, and then rehabbed his injuries.
It happened again one year later. Fish was playing against Fargo Shanley on Jan. 13, 2017, when a hit caused the same kind of pop he felt the season before. It was another meniscus tear in the same knee.
But Fish came back from the second injury, too. The senior is leading St. Paul Johnson with 11 assists as a defenseman this season. The Governors (12-11-3), seeded fourth in the Class 1A, Section 4 tournament, lost 4-2 to fifth-seeded Northfield in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
“They’re fluke injuries, they’re so strange,” Governors coach Moose Younghans said. “I just felt so bad for him, but it’s incredible how hard he worked. The diagnosis was longer for him to come back, but both summers with the knee he just did extra work.”
Fish went through physical therapy at TRIA from February to August in his sophomore year. He went after school to get help from the high school’s trainer as well. Throughout his rehabilitation, Fish was still at practices and games, cheering his teammates.
They did not stop cheering him, either. Teammates would stop by to see what he needed and bring him food sometimes. They also texted him and called him. Fellow defenseman Luke Moberg said he knew Fish was going to be in the weight room, working to come back.
“We’re a brotherhood and we’re all there for each other,” Moberg said. “We’re all going to battle alongside each other.”
He also said that Fish is “what we’re all about at Johnson, nitty-gritty.”
Fish’s final season has included another injury, more minor than his previous ones. He tore his right shoulder in a hit that resulted in whiplash, but Fish passed a concussion protocol and came back after a week, according to his mother, Julia.
“After the injury [his sophomore year], when he was back on the ice, I had fear for him,” Julia said. “But I could not show it. I had to be really positive for him. I knew his mind-set. I didn’t want to get in his head.”
Carl Fish first started loving hockey when he was around 6 years old. His mother found a flier that advertised a hockey camp where the kids received jerseys for finishing. She originally thought her son would quit the sport.
“He was like Frankenstein,” Julia said. “When he said he wanted to go into the Mites program, I put him in ‘C’ Mites, because I knew how awful he was.”
Now, Fish moves less like Frankenstein and more like one of the best defensemen Younghans says he has ever coached.
Despite his history of injuries, Fish is determined to play hockey at the next level.
“I haven’t had any offers yet, just going to try out for some teams,” Fish said. “I’m looking for NAHL, USHL, any team that’s looking.”
Jack White is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.