Brad Hornung, who was left a quadriplegic following a check in a WHL game on March 1, 1987, died in Regina on Tuesday. The former Regina Pats forward would have turned 53 on Sunday.
Hornung had been diagnosed with bone and colon cancer about four weeks ago. At the time, he felt that something wasn’t right and that perhaps he might have pneumonia. Instead, doctors discovered he had terminal cancer.
Hornung died at the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre in Regina, which had been his home since shortly after he was injured.
Hornung played one game with the Pats in 1984-85, then had 17 goals and 18 assists in 64 games with them in 1985-86. At the time of his injury, he had 32 goals and 34 assists in 61 games.
He was injured early in the second period of a 6-3 victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors at the Regina Agridome. He went head-first into the boards behind the Moose Jaw net and it was immediately apparent that he was in trouble. Hornung was on the ice for about 40 minutes during which time he was given a heart massage and, because he had swallowed his tongue and needed help breathing, a tracheotomy was performed.
Hornung was found to have suffered a burst fracture of the third cervical vertebrae and a crushed spinal cord. He was, Dr. Chris Ekong, a neurologist, said two days after the incident, “completely paralyzed from the neck down.”
At the time, there was speculation in the medical community that Hornung would need breathing help for the rest of his life. But he was breathing on his own inside of three months.
In 2014, Hornung admitted “that was my goal — not to be dependent on a ventilator to breathe.”
He definitely didn’t allow his wheelchair and paralysis to hold him back. He worked as an amateur scout with the Chicago Blackhawks and later worked with NHL Central Scouting.
He also graduated from Archbishop M.C. O’Neill Catholic High School, then went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of Regina’s Campion College in 1996. He also took business administration classes at the U of Regina.
He is survived by his mother Terry, who lives in Regina, and sister Leanne Wright of Las Vegas, both of whom were with him when he died. His father, Larry, a former pro defenceman, died in Regina on May 8, 2001, at the age of 55.