Shreveport, LA

Perseverance To Defend

Under The Radar NWLA
Photo byShreveport Mudbugs

It’s an adage by coaches that you hear all the time about persevering through it all to get to the goal.  You’ve got to claw and scratch whatever to achieve what you want.  If you want it bad enough you’ll push through the pain.  Injuries come in all kinds through sports.  With injuries, patience brings a double impact to perseverance.  Watching on the sidelines may allow you time to heal and get better but a mind trick occurs by watching opportunities pass you by and others take your slot.  Being an athlete does not just take a physical toll on the body but can cause mental exhaustion.   How bad do you want it and at what point is the breaking point the focus?
Photo byShreveport Mudbugs

Shreveport Mudbug goalkeeper Simon Bucheler has had his fair share of injuries to hamper his junior hockey career.  The struggles and tolls he’s paid over the past few years have led to a successful season and an opportunity to play for another four years at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania..  

The French Canadian from St-Laurent, Quebec after graduation headed to the United States to push his hockey skills for a chance at junior hockey.  Not the easiest task but Bucheler crashed into the roster of the NCDC (National Collegiate Development Conference)  New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs.   The netminder played the first two months and his first injury came into play.  Bucheler had an infection on his arm which eventually spread to an infection in his eyes that put him out of commission for six weeks.  He was treated with cortisone shots but his vision was distorted where the left eye was seeing up close while the right eye was magnifying.  My phone was sitting on the table and he described what it was like.  “Looking at your phone, from my left eye your phone would look distant, but my left eye would see it as very up close.”  Even to a non-athlete, this disorientation would be unnerving.  Imagine having this and a high-speed hard rubber puck is coming at you.  Bucheler was not allowed to play for six weeks but learned to deal with the situation until it eventually went away two weeks before Christmas.  He would eventually get in two more months of hockey and accumulated a 7-2-3-1 record with the Jr. Monarchs.
Photo byShreveport Mudbugs

Bucheler was pursuing his hockey career near his brother, Jeremie, who played at Northeastern University, about an hour away.  He would get to watch his brother play seven to eight games, a feat he rarely was able to do.   Little did he know that the rest of the world would come to a screeching halt.  “COVID hit,”  Bucheler said. “We thought it was a two-week deal.  We went home and thought we would be right back.”  The Jr. Monarchs had made the playoffs, but Bucheler would not be there.  His father, fearing the worst from the disease and seeing what was happening, decided to bring his boys back to Canada.   His father informed him that he was on the way to Boston to pick up his brother from Northeastern and they would pick him up and bring him home.  “I felt bad leaving, but as we were driving back home they canceled the (NCDC) season.”  In Canada, Bucheler had hopes of getting back on the ice soon.  A local NHL player was not allowed to play due to teams in their respective “bubble” beginning to practice with Bucheler.    Bucheler would find a team with the CCHL (Central Canada Hockey League) Carleton Place Canadians.  The goalkeeper never played an official game with them but did play “exhibition” games with Smith Falls Bears.  “We were playing exhibitions against the same team,” Bucheler said.  “I played for Carleton Place and we played Smith Falls sixteen times in a row.”  The two-week perception turned into months of quarantine.  The 18-year-old goalkeeper saw his hockey opportunities dwindling to play at the next level due to lack of exposure.  “You see the days start rolling by and not playing and not getting any exposure,”  Bucheler said.  “It’s kind of tough.  It was hard to stay motivated.  You’re playing the sport you love, but you’re not playing it in a competitive environment that I’ve grown to love. It was tough in that aspect.  Once our season was officially canceled and this wasn’t happening. I was still practicing, but practicing for what.”

After COVID and his stint with Carleton Place, Bucheler had contact from a pee wee hockey coach that was a former Shreveport Mudbug, Rich Parent.  Bucheler knew that Parent’s son had played for the Mudbugs.   The first call he received from the Mudbugs said “Shreveport, LA” and questioned who was calling him from Los Angeles.  Little did he know he would be heading south to Shreveport.   He was excited he would wear flip-flops and t-shirts every day.   Before he reached Shreveport, though, injury struck again.  An infection appeared on his finger.  Looked as if it was an ingrown hair, but the infection kept growing.  Eventually, the infection would send Bucheler to the hospital with a swollen finger that he couldn’t move or feel.  Three sets of antibiotics were given to the diagnosed “field infection”.  Plastic surgery even had to be implemented to stop the spread of the infection.   Eventually overcoming the infection, Bucheler was allowed to train after the surgery.  The problem was that he was not allowed to put hockey gloves on.  He could work out but couldn’t take any shots.  The injuries were not just taking a physical toll on the goakeeper, but mentally also.  “I got depressed both times,” Bucheler said. “My mom sees me through my hard times and my dad too helps me out.  There were some low points.  I just really didn’t know what to do with my life.  It (Hockey) is all I’ve ever known. Obviously, after hockey, I’ll have a life.  It was like I was on my way up and boom something was happening. Life was getting to find my way and then getting knocked back down.  It was tough and after not having a season, coming here and none of the coaching staff had seen me before that infection.  I came into training camp about three weeks later than anyone else.”  Bucheler eventually would get to show his skills in some exhibition games.
Photo byShreveport Mudbugs

Bucheler would eventually get to wear the Mudbugs jersey and split time with goalkeeper Devon Bobak.  The Mudbugs were the defending NAHL champions but on a six-week road trip where they went 1-12 falling to last place.  On the road trip, Bucheler injured his groin.  With Bobak taking the helm between the pipes, the Mudbugs then went on a six-game winning streak.  Bobak was hot and Bucheler had to sit back and watch.  He now worried about where his place was with the team.  Bucheler, not fully healed, played the second game after the Christmas break and tweaked his groin injury once again.  During this time, the Mudbugs had gone from cellar dwellers to contending for a playoff spot.   Bucheler was getting limited playing time on the ice.  He pushed himself by practicing every opportunity with extra ice time.  

The Mudbugs eventually did qualify for the playoffs in the hard-nosed South Division.   Bucheler was not expecting to get a shot.   The Mudbugs lost the first two games of the playoffs against Lone Star in Richland Hills.  Bucheler received the call to take care of the net in what could have been the final game of the season for Shreveport.  “We go into the playoffs and we play the first two games.  I’m not expecting to play because of how well the team’s been playing and how well Bobak has been playing all year.”  Bucheler said. “The coaching staff decided to go with me the next Friday night at home.  I was super nervous. I had no pressure.  It was a high-pressure game, a do-or-die game, but I had no pressure going into it.  I wasn’t the starter.  They had trust and faith in me.  If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have put me on the net. I just knew I had put in all this work and it was game three.  If we lose, we lose.  If we win, let’s go get another chance. It felt as if the whole season was leading up to that point.”    Shreveport won game three of that series 4-1.   “I played the best hockey of my life,”  Bucheler said. “I was super focused all day.  We ended up winning and I had tears of joy after that game.  It felt like everything that had been going on for the past couple of years.  It was all leading up to that point.  There was so much emotion coming out of me, I just couldn’t hold back.”   Shreveport would fall in Game 4 of that hard-fought series. 

Bucheler would return for another season to Shreveport with anticipation by the coaches of him being a leader in the net.  He trained all summer and came into training camp in the best shape of his life.  During the first day of practice, Bucheler was only scored on once.  He was having a stellar camp.  Halfway through the second day, the goalkeeper rolled over on his foot and sprained his ankle.  Once again, he faced a sprained ankle and another 6-8 weeks out of action.  Tommy Aitken was given the nod between the pipes and endured the vicious beginning of the season road trip.  Bucheler was beginning to question his place on the team now.  Aitken was playing well and Bucheler was going to have to take the back seat again.  Eventually, Bucheler returned between the pipes and moved back into the top spot.
Photo byShreveport Mudbugs

Bucheler currently has the NAHL fourth-best GAA (Goal Against Average) at 1.98 and boasts a 13-5-1-2 record in the hard-fought South Division and a .922 save percentage.  The greatest part of this story is not the stats listed but that perseverance and not giving up after the adversity with his junior hockey career.  Bucheler will get to play for four more years.  He is committed to playing at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania after this season.  The 21-year-old is already taking online classes and will be playing hockey at the Division 1 level in the Atlantic Hockey conference with the Lakers. 

I ask you again.   How bad do you want it?  That’s what it takes.  Life is going to throw curveballs and knock us down at times.  The question is how are you going to treat those times?  If you don’t push through and persevere, you may never know what you could achieve or what’s waiting for you down the line.

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This website is dedicated to giving a light to high schools sports in the Class 2A-A-B-C and also leagues who don't get a lot of press coverage. I want to tell their untold stories. Focus area is NW Louisiana and help these stars get discovered

Bossier City, LA

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