This post was originally posted in TheWorkout.Today on 7/22/19. I’m reposting it here, in honor of my Dad’s birthday: 2/26/20.
“He hits, he jokes, he scores”, reads the headline of a May 1983 profile of Bruce Tillotson, then a 21-year-old left-wing on the Ohio State Buckeyes hockey team.
“Tiger Tilly”, a tough player who was known for his ability to dole out hard hits on the ice, was an infamous jokester too, who even tried “wisecracking on the ice” considering it a “moral victory” when he could get the referee to crack a smile.
Bruce’s good humor never let challenges keep him down for long – even significant ones.
After suffering a severe concussion during a game and spending weeks in a coma-like state at the hospital, Tillotson got back on the ice, telling a reporter, “I can’t let the injury concern me. If I worried about being hurt again, I would not go into the corners, and if I didn’t go into the corners, I wouldn’t be playing the game.”
The corners are where the toughest action happens in hockey: where there is most likely to be rough physical play as players duke it out by the boards for control of the puck.
Bruce knew that the game of hockey comes down to the players’ abilities to face their fears and play in the corners.
Bruce employed that same mental toughness over the past 2 years and 8 months, since he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in November 2017. He was never afraid of heading into the corners, and he fought every step of the way.
Bruce passed away shortly after midnight on Thursday, July 18th. Moments after hearing one of his favorite songs by AC/DC* he opened his eyes for a moment, looked around at his family, and then exhaled his final breath.
Bruce is my Dad and my hero. I’ll miss him every day and I hope to play my life in the corners bravely, just like he did.