As a coveted young defenseman with pro potential, David Carle enhanced his burgeoning talent with poise and maturity beyond his years. Now, the 18-year-old from Anchorage is leaning on those same virtues to deal with the end of his hockey career.
Carle on Friday said he will no longer play the game after doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., diagnosed a heart condition that puts him at risk for sudden cardiac death if he exerts himself too strenuously.
Carle said Mayo Clinic doctors on Thursday diagnosed him with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart that has been cited in the sudden death of young athletes.
He had been a lock to be selected in today's NHL draft, possibly as high as the second round, but withdrew his name from consideration after receiving the diagnosis.
An abnormality was first detected in Carle's heart by doctors at the NHL's scouting combine in Toronto last month, prompting this week's visit to the Mayo Clinic.
After undergoing tests, Carle said he was informed of the diagnosis Thursday.
He said he felt fortunate doctors detected his condition.
"It's really not the end of the world,'' Carle said by phone Friday from Faribault, Minn., where he is visiting friends. "I'm really quite fortunate they were able to find it.
"I've still got a long life ahead of me. I have a lot to look forward to and a lot of opportunities ahead of me.''
David Carle is the middle son among Bob and Karen Carle's three hockey-playing boys. Bob Carle, who accompanied David to Minnesota and calls his son "a level- headed, pragmatic guy who thinks things through,'' said he was impressed how David accepted the news, digested it and quickly began thinking about his future.
"Hard to believe he's only 18, huh?'' Bob Carle said. "I'm pretty proud of him. I've always told the boys, 'I am more proud of who you are than what you do.'
"The kid amazes me. He's handled this better than I did, for sure.''
David Carle, who was scheduled to begin playing as a freshman on scholarship at the University of Denver in the fall, said he and his father immediately informed Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky of his condition. Gwozdecky quickly told the Carles the school would honor David's scholarship and also make him part of its hockey program.
"That's real stand-up of them,'' David Carle said. "That means the world to me. I'll still get to be around the team and have those relationships. I couldn't be any happier with the decision to go to the University of Denver.''
Gwodecky, who coached David's older brother, Matt, said honoring David's scholarship was the right thing to do. He said he is excited to include David in the hockey program in some capacity.
"Not only are we morally and ethically obliged, but we have established, and we try to establish, strong relationships with our student- athletes,'' Gwozdecky said by phone. "And we have had that relationship with the Carles for a long time because of Matt.
"David is such a unique guy. We feel so frustrated for him because a big part of his hockey life has ended. But whether it's hockey or not, we want to support him. It was the least we could do in a very difficult time for David and his family.''
David Carle said he will begin classes at Denver in the fall and already has solicited academic advice from his older brother. Matt Carle, 23, a defenseman with the NHL's San Jose Sharks and a two-time All-American for the Pioneers who helped them to two national championships. As a junior in 2006, he won the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as college hockey's best player.
Matt Carle, who described his brother as "a great hockey player and a better person than a hockey player,'' said he knows David will succeed in whatever he does.
"He's still going to a great school and he can do anything he wants to,'' Matt Carle said of his brother by phone from San Jose, Calif. "He'll go to school and work hard, and he has the support of me and my family.
"He still has it better than most kids. But he's worked really hard on his hockey, and to see it end is sad.''
Bob Carle said David's adviser, Kurt Overhardt, on Thursday informed NHL teams that David was removing his name from draft consideration because of his diagnosis.
David Carle has spent the last three years at Shattuck-St. Mary's, a prep school in Faribault, Minn., that regularly develops some of the nation's best young hockey players. As a blueliner coveted for his ability to generate offense from the back line, he helped Shattuck win USA Hockey Tier I Under-18 national championships in 2008 and 2007.
Last season, Carle scored 13 goals and furnished 38 assists for 51 points in 61 games.
The NHL's Central Scouting Service ranked Carle 60th overall among North American skaters eligible for the draft, and there were indications he might be drafted as high as the second round. Matt Carle was a second-round pick of San Jose's in 2003.
David Carle said he has never experienced any indication he suffered a heart problem -- no symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath or fainting. But he said doctors told him hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a silent disease that sometimes only is discovered after an athlete dies.
That prompted Carle to encourage all athletes, particularly young ones, to be tested for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
"That's why the disease is so scary,'' Carle said. "You don't know you have it. Oftentimes, your first symptom is your last symptom.''
He said an electrocardiogram and echocardiogram he underwent at the Mayo Clinic revealed his condition. Carle and his father both said they were thankful for NHL doctors who first discovered an abnormality in David's heart.
"If they wouldn't have found it, he'd have gone on to college (hockey) and probably placed himself at some risk,'' Bob Carle said.
David Carle said a nurse at the Mayo Clinic who talked to him Thursday provided the first inkling his hockey career was history.
"The nurse, I could tell it was hard for him," David said. "After he left, I just lost it and had a good cry.
"The doctor came in, and I was pretty shell-shocked at first. After a few hours passed, you can step back and evaluate it, and move forward.''
David Carle said doctors told him he has a non-obstructive form of the disease and will be able to exercise lightly. He is awaiting a report from doctors that will outline what physical activity is considered safe.
"It shouldn't affect my everyday life,'' Carle said. "The only real effect is I can't do really heavy lifting, no quick exertion of force. I can probably do light workouts. I can fish and golf too.''
Gwozdecky said Carle would play a pivotal role in Denver's hockey program.
"I'm just formulating this in my mind, (but) it's going to be an important position,'' Gwozdecky said. "He's not going to just be pushing pucks or being a manager.''
Gwozdecky said Carle's emphasis that athletes get tested, and his bright outlook about his future, are both indicative of his nature.
"I don't know how a young person or an old person, or anyone, could handle this as well as David,'' Gwozdecky said. "That's a real testament to him and his character.''
Find Doyle Woody's blog online at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.