Patrice CORMIER already had enough challenges disrupting his career.
A string of injuries -- appendix, concussion, shoulder -- that just wouldn't seem to quit.
Then came a bad decision. A really bad one.
And he's spent the last two years trying to loosen the grip of its consequences.
In January 2010, the Winnipeg Jets forward, just recalled this week, was suspended for the balance of his junior season and playoffs for elbowing opponent Mikael Tam in the head. Tam started convulsing on the ice and was rushed to hospital.
Cormier pleaded guilty to a charge of assault causing bodily harm in October 2010 and received an unconditional discharge, meaning he wouldn't have a criminal record.
Not long after the banishment, the 54th overall pick of the 2008 entry draft was traded by the New Jersey Devils to the Atlanta Thrashers in the Ilya Kovalchuk deal.
And then more injuries, including a concussion and a broken foot cost him most of the 2010-11 season.
"The last couple of years have been hell," Cormier told the Free Press during the season, most of it spent with the AHL's St. John's IceCaps.
The "hell" includes the consequences, which he admits are impossible to leave behind.
"Obviously it always will (stay with me)," Cormier said of his bad decision. "When you look at it, it sucks. I don't like to look at it. It's always going to stay with me but it's died down a lot. It's happened. It's behind me. It's over with. The court's over with. A year and a half has passed since then and I want it to stay in the past.
"But I know when I'm on the ice I have to keep my elbows down and obviously I think about it. When I go to hit a guy, if the guy's coming across the ice, I want to hit him but I don't want to hurt him.
"I know I tuck my elbows in and make sure there's nothing. I could lie to you and say that I don't think about it when I'm out there. But if you think about what happened, it was a pretty big deal and if it ever happens again, people are going to be saying, 'That's what he does.' "
Cormier says now he has no choice but to focus on the lesson, and at the same time return to a more steady path of development.
"I want to hit as much but I'm being smarter now, and with all these suspensions now, of course you have to be smart and right when you hit," he said. "If you're not, guys will not respect you. You have to respect everyone out there and if you do those things, you'll get no respect at all."
The Moncton, N.B., native still hasn't had a perfect season of health but the 62nd game of his season would come tonight against the New York Islanders. That would be a high-water mark for him since his midget days.
"He's been an interesting development process," said Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. "There was the suspension and then last year the majority of the time with injuries. What we've said to him after a good training camp was that there was an argument to be made that he could have stayed. But we have told him to go down and continue to develop."
When he returns to the IceCaps next week, Cormier will have the chance to develop even further. St. John's will be one of the top three seeds in the AHL Eastern Conference playoffs.
"My goal was to play all the games, to stay healthy all year," Cormier said. "I wanted to make the Jets but I know more important was that I had to get better. And I had to play.
"It's what I've been doing. I've been giving it my all, staying focused on the goal."
Lessons started early in 2011-12 for Jets forward and prospect Patrice Cormier. After that good training camp came a mistake, he admits now, a mistake that won't be repeated.
He took something for granted.
"The first time I came down it was hard," he said. "I thought I was going to stay up for the home opener against Montreal. I let myself go that I was sure I would stay so when it (the demotion) happened, I was crushed. It took me a couple of games to get over it. Now when I go up, I know what I have to do, and when I come back down, same, I know what I have to do."