Heffernan Pushes His Limited for Holliston Hockey

Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
With hip surgery under his belt, senior Conner Heffernan has been making physical strides in order to help his Holliston Hockey team.
Issue Date: 
January, 2020
Article Body: 

Growing up in Worcester, Connor Heffernan got involved in the youth hockey leagues at a young age, when his father first got him on skates for lessons. It wasn’t too long after he learned how to skate when he joined an ice hockey team.
Around the seventh grade, his family moved to Holliston, where he found hockey was not as revered as it was in Worcester.
“Playing hockey in Worcester, the kids were much more into it,” he said. “When I got here, I found that there were not as many people into playing hockey.”
Although his hockey upbringing was on a different level prior to coming to Holliston, Heffernan still found high school tryouts to be somewhat difficult.
“Tryouts were a little tough, as I wasn’t that big. I was 5’1” about 105 pounds,” Heffernan said. “I made the varsity team as a freshman, but due to a lot of talent seniors on the team that year, I only got to play a shift or two here and there. I saw most of my ice time on the junior varsity team.”
Heffernan’s second campaign with the Holliston varsity squad was much the same as his first, with his size keeping him on the bench.
“Originally, it was tough to find ice time due to my size,” Heffernan said. “I felt that I wasn’t that far off skill wise, but I was held back because I wasn’t that big.”
Holliston coach Dan Geary felt sorry for Heffernan not playing as much during his younger years.
“Unfortunately, during his freshman and sophomore years, there were a lot of talented seniors in front of him, so Connor didn’t get a lot of playing time,” the Panther Coach said. “As a junior, he had the speed and physicality, as well as being a very intelligent hockey player who could see the entire ice with good puck control.”
Before he found his spot on the ice in Geary’s system, Heffernan had to work on his game further in the off-season. He would not only play for a travel team out of Worcester, but he also joined a summer league in nearby Walpole and began to grow. He took part in captain’s workouts and continued to eat and workout to gain weight so that he wouldn’t get thrown around on the ice. As a junior, he was no longer that 5-foot defenseman, but instead was 6’1” and 150 pounds and ready to show the coaching staff what he was made of.
As an incoming junior, finally able to get some quality ice time, the Panther defenseman was looking to prove he belonged on the ice with the rest of his teammates.
“It was cool to play defense,” he said. “Sure, you don’t get as much recognition as the goal scorers, but it was rather rewarding keeping the other team from scoring.”
Heffernan found his first full-time year on the ice to be rough going. Eight seniors had graduated from the team that earned a spot I the Division 3 South tournament the winter prior. Holliston was not able to return to the tournament, but the Panthers were able to grow and develop.
As the team grew, so did Heffernan’s game. The junior defender was named to the Tri-Valley All Star team, despite the cloud that hung over him the entire hockey season.
“Originally, we did not count on him to actually play, as he had an injury that we thought that was going to keep him off the ice for the entire season,” Geary said. “Connor had a hip injury, and he decided to wait for the surgery until after the season, taking cortisone shots to play. For someone who was not expected to help us on the ice, he had an elite season.”
While playing for the travel team prior to his junior year, Heffernan began having pain in his hip that continued to get worse. The doctors eventually found that he had torn a labrum in his hip and had hip dysplasia and a FAI impingement in his entire right hip. At this point, he was told he would need immediate surgery.
Heffernan wanted no part of missing out on yet another season of hockey, especially as his high school career was coming to an end.
“Initially, I was told that I would need surgery immediately, but right before tryouts, I returned to the doctor, and he gave me the option of taking a cortisone shot instead, allowing me to fight through the pain while continuing to play,” Heffernan said. “It wasn’t even a question to me. I was going to take the shot to play and help my team. There was no way that I was going to sit on the bench again.”
As soon as the season came to an end Heffernan had PAO hip surgery. For two months after the surgery, he was not able to put any weight on his right leg and couldn’t walk for 3 months. Just two weeks after surgery he began physical therapy to learn to walk again. Once that was accomplished, he focused on strengthening the muscles around the labrum area until he was able to take to the ice once again. Although he has only been skating a month before or two before the season got underway; he has been working hard playing on team in Framingham to prepare for his senior season with Holliston.
“As soon as I was cleared to lift weights again, I was in the weight room after school with the team getting stronger for the season,” the now senior captain said. “It was very tough going through physical therapy so many times a week, but I knew that it would get me ready for the season, the season in which my team would need me, so I had to be at my best to support them.”
As the best defenseman that can move the pick up the ice for the Panthers, Geary noted that Heffernan’s sacrifice for the team shows why he is a leader.
“He’s not a vocal leader, but one who leads by example,” the coach said. “He not only has all the tools, but loves the game, and his teammates look up to him the way he plays the game. They also rely on him.”
As his senior campaign gets underway Heffernan is looking to take his game up a notch and score 20-25 points this winter. Since he has gotten back on the ice, he has been working extremely hard on his shooting and stick handling to be able to get that 25 point plateau while helping his team advance into the tournament once again.
In addition to playing on the hockey team, Heffernan also plays for the Ultimate Frisbee team for the Panthers.
“The two sports are pretty much polar opposites. Hockey, you’re trying to run people over and hit them, while Frisbee is the spirit of the game where you are congratulating other teams when they make a good play,” he said.
Heffernan is hoping that his hip is 100% and that he can continue to play the game he loves on a high level while helping his team on the ice. He knows that no matter what happens, this will probably be his last competitive year of hockey on a high level. Once he gets to college, he will not suit up for on a collegiate level, but may just play club or intramural hockey depending on where he decides to attend.