There was a time when Minneapolis, Minnesota's Casey Borer was one of the best defensive prospects in American hockey.
The 6'2" 200lb rearguard first game to prominence in 2000 when he played at the famed prep-school Shattuck-St. Mary's, alongside Zach Parise.
After two years he joined the United States national development team and represented his country at the under-18s world championships.
Playing for the national development team was one of the best experiences of his career.
"We played against schools like Minnesota, Colorado College, Michigan, and Michigan State," says Borer. "We did some USHL road-trips too, where we'd go to Iowa for a week and play Waterloo and Cedar Rapids. And we also got to go overseas, we played tournaments in Russia, the Czech Republic, and Sweden.
"The international competition was great. We got a lot of experience going over there, especially playing against some talented players that are already in the NHL, guys like Alexander Ovechkin."
In 2003 Borer committed to St. Cloud State. He emerged as a NHL prospect, being drafted 69th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes. He earned a reputation as a hard-working, steady defensive defenseman with good skating and body positioning.
He also was noted as a leader, captaining the hockey team his final two seasons there. Being named captain in his sophomore year was quite the honour.
"It was a bit tough at first. I'm sure there were some seniors that were disappointed in not being able to wear the 'C.' It says a lot to me since it's voted on by the team - that kind of respect from the guys means so much.
In his final season at University Borer led the Huskies to a second place finish before falling to Maine in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
In 2007-08 Borer impressed in his first full pro season, notching six goals and 13 assists in 61 games with the Albany River Rats. He also got a look in Carolina, scoring 1 goal and 2 assists in 11 games with the Hurricanes.
Tragedy struck in his second pro season. In February the River Rats' bus crashed and Borer was later diagnosed with a broken neck.
“I just remember waking up in mid-air and I was flying across the bus to the other side,” Borer said. “I hit my head and I looked down and saw Dwight Helminen’s foot was bleeding and guys were strewn everywhere. I remember someone yelling from the front of the bus for everyone to get off because we were still in the middle of the road. So, everyone just scrambled. I remember climbing out of the top and guys were yelling to get away from the bus, so we ran and I laid down in the snow because I couldn’t hold up my head.”
“It didn’t even register in my mind that my neck could be broken,” Borer said. “I was in a lot of pain, but I just thought people get whiplash from car accidents all the time and you hear how painful it is, so I thought it’s probably just whiplash. I remember moving my neck around, trying to loosen it up and stuff, not even thinking that."
It was eventually decided surgery would be required. He would miss almost a full calendar. But he showed great dedication and determination throughout the rehab process. He would return to a full season of AHL action in 2010-11, and won the Fred Hunt award for dedication and sportsmanship.
In 2011 Borer opted to pursue hockey opportunities overseas, playing in the Czech Republic, winning a league championship, and Germany.
“I started looking at rosters and there were a lot of names I recognized, a lot of former college players. It seemed like a good fit. It really is a nice country and it’s good hockey.”
Through it all, Borer always remembered those who helped him along the way.
"My mom had the biggest impact on my hockey development, or so she claims. She took me to all of the skating lessons on the outdoor rinks - I don't really remember it, but she says she did, so I guess I'll give her credit for starting me off. From there, it was a combination effort between my mom and dad, and my grandpa and grandma's love hockey, so they did their fair share of driving too.
"Other than those four family members, I'd have to say that J.P. Parisé and Tom Ward at Shattuck really steered me in the right direction, and then coming to (St. Cloud State), the direction I've had from Coach Dahl and Coach Motzko has been amazing."
Casey Borer played a total of 16 NHL games, scoring 1 goal and 2 assists.