It’s seemingly business as usual for Jim Porter as he’s lacing up his skates a second time, which is his usual pre-game tradition. But underneath the referee’s stripes, a scar on his neck is a reminder to the Naperville resident that the night isn’t just a regular game.
“I’m ready to go,” said Porter. “I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time.”
In October, Porter had surgery to remove four deteriorating disks from his neck as the 51-year-old was suffering from spinal stenosis. His wife and kid recall what life was like during Jim’s surgery.
“We just knew it was going to happen on November 4, but then in October he just suddenly could not life his arms and his spine was king of compressing. So they had to have emergency surgery, which lasted nine hours,” said Louise Porter, Jim’s wife.
“It was kind of scary because I never thought my dad would be able to walk again,” said Jim’s son Zachary. “It was going through my mind that my dad was going to be paralyzed for the rest of his life.”
Triumphant Return To The Ice
But thankfully Jim made a full recovery, and was back at the Rocket Ice Skating Rink in Bolingbrook to ref his fist game since the surgery. Before he could hit the ice, he received some words of encouragement from his family.
“Don’t fall down,” Louise jokingly said. “Don’t break any bones,” added Zachary. “Protect your neck!,” Louise said.
Smiling from ear to ear, Jim was back in his element, smooth skating across the rink, and doing what he loves.
What He Missed The Most
“I missed the game of hockey and just being to able to be a part of the game with the kids is what I missed” said Jim. “Tonight getting on the ice I heard some people in the crowd yelling my name and it felt like where I belonged.”
Alongside Jim was his longtime friend, and fellow referee Mike Anderson, who he called to asking for help.
“He was like ‘hey I’m coming back. I got my first game I got it scheduled, would you do me the honor and skate with me fro that first game?’. It was defiantly an honor for me,” said Anderson. “I actually had some other games scheduled, but i drop those games and did this one with him.”
Jim’s Triumphant Return
The final score of the game in hindsight wasn’t the most important thing that night considering Jim didn’t know a couple of months ago if he’d ever walk again.
“I remember sitting it that hospital wondering if I’d ever do this again, and here I am,” Jim said while crying. “It’s been a long time coming and i loved every minute of it.”
As the final buzzer rang out at the end of the game, each them shook hands and went their separate ways. And so did Jim, skating off with his arms raised high.
“I did it. Right? I saw a lot of my friends and I did it. I’m back,” said Jim.
You certainly are Jim, welcome back.
Sports Story Sunday’s Christian Canizal reports.
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