UNTIL MAY of this year David Carle seemed ready to follow the path his big brother, Matt, blazed to the NHL. A star at the University of Denver, Matt was taken in the second round of the 2003 draft by the San Jose Sharks, for whom he is a defenseman. Last fall David, 18, accepted a scholarship from Denver and was projected as an eventual early draft pick. But after a routine physical at an NHL combine, Carle's career came to an abrupt end.
An electrocardiogram revealed an abnormality, and follow-up tests in June confirmed that Carle has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), a genetic disease that is the most common cause of sudden death in young athletes. "I was shell-shocked," Carle says. "I broke down and cried for a good 20 minutes."
In time Carle, who never had a symptom, realized that he was fortunate. "It could have ended a lot more tragically," he says. Denver assured Carle, who is waiting to hear from doctors what kind of physical activities he can safely take part in, that it would honor his scholarship, and on June 21 the Tampa Bay Lightning used its final draft pick to symbolically select Carle. "[Owner Oren Koules] told me that I've worked my entire life to be drafted," Carle says, "and that I should have that next to my name."