By Brad Holland
NHL.com Staff Writer
No injury ever comes at a good time.
But for Gwinnett Gladiators forward Colton Fretter, breaking a leg in a February game against the Florida Everblades couldn’t have come at a worse time.
After all, Fretter was leading all ECHL rookies in scoring by a wide margin at the time. He was playing on his team’s top line and Gwinnett sat within striking difference of the American Division lead.
No one would’ve been surprised had he gotten discouraged or used the injury as an excuse to feel sorry for himself. But that isn’t the type of player Fretter is. So what to do?
He hit the gym!
He was going before the cast had come off.
“I can’t do any cardio, but I go to the gym four times per week,” Fretter said. “I’m sure there were a few people giving me strange looks behind my back, hobbling around the gym on crutches and in a cast.”
The thing is, if it were just this one setback, if Fretter had spent a relatively smooth road through minor hockey, juniors and into college, the shock to his system may have been a lot heavier. But Fretter has built a career out of overcoming obstacles.
“Going into juniors I was too small,” he recalled. “People said I wouldn’t be able to hang with the bigger, older guys. Then in juniors, it was that I was too slow, not in good enough shape. I mean, skating for the most part, it’s hard to change. But I did a lot of work my final year before college to improve. When I went to school I became really good friends with my strength coach, working on my agility with plyometrics, sprints, stuff like that.
“At school it seemed everyone was very fast and I wasn’t. But I’m flying now.”
It took a lot of work. Michigan State strength and conditioning coach Mike Vorkapich remembers a freshman named Fretter and the first day he entered the MSU locker room. He was aware of the hard work Fretter would need to invest in his game.
“I had heard a lot about him coming out of junior,” Vorkapich said. “I had known of him and his game and our coaches talked very highly of him. I knew he was a strong kid and a crafty player. But obviously it doesn’t matter what sport, most kids have a transition from juniors/high school to college sports.”