Charlottetown Islanders associate captain Lane Hinkley remembers looking up during a game in front of his hometown crowd in Sydney, N.S., a few years ago and seeing a boy with a No. 77 jersey and the name Hinkley on the back.
The boy had a big smile on his face, Hinkley recalled.
"That is one of my proudest moments, and I'll never forget it," he wrote in an Instagram post Monday.
Hinkley, 19, has been reflecting on his hockey career after a medical exam Friday revealed a lesion on his brain, ending his days in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
"Friday morning, I was told that my hockey career is over. Too many hits, too many punches, too many concussions that I didn't properly heal from," he wrote in the post.
"The doctor said my MRI showed there is a 25mm by 17mm lesion on my brain, as well as other scars that they couldn't determine the size of. Currently, I am at risk for CTE and early dementia."
Hinkley, a six-foot-two-inch, 230-pound defenceman, was drafted in the first round, 16th overall, to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in the 2020 QMJHL entry draft. During his second season, he was traded to Drummondville, Que., and then traded to Charlottetown midway through the 2022-23 season.
He was not drafted by an NHL team, but became one of the Islanders' most dependable veterans.
In a news release, Jim Hulton, coach and general manager of the Islanders, said Hinkley was "an honest player who competed hard every day."
"Lane is highly respected by teammates, coaches and support staff for his straightforward, team first approach. While we are saddened to learn that Lane can no longer risk playing, we are fully confident that he will be successful in any venture that he enters into."