Labradorian goalie, who played in the NHL, retires after suffering three concussions
© Submitted photo
Dan LaCosta (goalie) while playing for the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds last season.
For the past 12 years, Labradorian hockey fans have followed the career of Dan LaCosta with tremendous pride. It’s rare to see someone from the Big Land compete so well at some of hockey’s highest levels.
Through 12 years, LaCosta has represented Canada in the CHL Super Series, earned an NHL shutout, and won a CIS Championship on national television.
But, earlier this week, the goaltender, born and raised in Labrador City, hung up the skates, after suffering his third concussion of the season. LaCosta received all three injuries while playing for the Cardiff Devils of the Elite Ice Hockey League, a hockey league based out of the United Kingdom.
“I didn’t really have much of a choice…I spoke to a couple of doctors, I went to go see a neurologist and they all said that I shouldn’t play anymore,” says LaCosta. “Upon their advice, I thought it was best that I retire.”
“It sucks. It’s basically been the focal point of my life since I was a boy. It’s taken up the majority of my time and my energy and my focus. It’s hard, because I’m only 27 and it just ended so abruptly. It’s a tough way to end.”
It didn’t take long for LaCosta’s concussion problems to begin this season, During the Devils’ second exhibition game, the goaltender got kneed in the head by a forward crashing hard to the net.
The second concussion came in LaCosta’s first regular season game for the Devils. The head blow was so severe, it knocked LaCosta unconscious.
“I got hit on a real freak collision and got completely knocked out cold,” says LaCosta.
“It’s really hard to explain how it happened…it was really, really, bad luck. It was a real messed up play.”
With LaCosta out of the lineup, The Devils struggled to win games early on in the season. So the Labradorian Goalie tried to come back into the lineup as soon as possible.
“We were under some pressure. I really felt like I could have made a difference if I was playing. So I was putting pressure on myself internally to comeback,” Says LaCosta.
“I started finding my game a bit and wound up playing a really solid month of November, I felt really good.”
But the good times on the ice would come to a crashing halt on December 7. In similar fashion to his first concussion, LaCosta was struck on the head by a rushing forward, all but ending his career.
After consulting with doctors and a neurologist, LaCosta felt that the risk of playing hockey again after three consecutive concussions wouldn’t be worth the rewards. Even though it was difficult to say good-bye to the sport he loves, LaCosta doesn’t have any bitterness about how his career ended.
“I really think that I’ve been very fortunate to have gotten a lot of good opportunities and good breaks throughout my career that a lot of people who came before me didn’t get,” he says.
“I got an unbelievable life experience from it that a lot of people would have died for. And I consider myself very fortunate…I don’t feel sorry for myself whatsoever.”
LaCosta was originally planning to retire last spring, after winning the CIS national championship with the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds.
In the Championship game, which was televised coast to coast, LaCosta made 17 saves for a shutout. The clutch performance also earned him the player of the game award.
It seemed like LaCosta was poised to go out at the top, something most athletes can only dream of doing. But the offer he received from the Cardiff Devils was too good to refuse. By signing the contract, he would get a chance to see Wales and the United Kingdom. The team also offered to pay for his schooling, while he studied his Masters Degree in business.
“It’s nice to go out on your own terms and go out on a high note. It’s very rare in sports. It would have been nice to retire with a shutout on National Television and win a National Championship with some of your best friends…” Says LaCosta.
“But if I didn’t take the opportunity to come here, I think I really would have regretted it in the long run.”
Now he must do something he has rarely done before; think of a future without hockey.
“It’ll be tough (without hockey),” says LaCosta. “I’m going to have to find a way to fill that void somehow. That competitive drive…it doesn’t go away. I’m just going to have to find other ways to channel that energy.”
LaCosta had a successful major junior career in the OHL and was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets 93rd overall in 2004.
His last season of his Major junior career was by far his best. During the 2005-2006 season, Dan LaCosta posted a 36-17 record, with a 2.55 GAA and a .0915 SV%. During that year, LaCosta was given the honour of representing the OHL in the Super Series against the Russian Select team. The game was televised across the country, and LaCosta rose to the challenge. He stopped 25 of 27 shots, en route to a 5-2 win.
He would end up playing four games for the Blue Jackets between 2007 and 2009, making him the only Labrador goalie to play in the NHL.
In his first two games, LaCosta came off the bench in relief of another goalie. But he got his chance to be in the spotlight for his third NHL match. He played superbly that night; stopping 28 of 30 shots in a 3-2 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks.
But LaCosta saved his best performance for his fourth and last NHL game, just three days later. In that game against the Colorado Avalanche, LaCosta stopped all 31 shots he faced to earn a shutout.
After the shut out win, LaCosta had an NHL record of 2-0-0 with a .953 SV% and a 1.42 GAA. With such stellar numbers, many figured he would be back in the NHL at some point. For reasons only known to the Columbus Blue Jackets organization, LaCosta was never called up again after his tremendous shutout performance.
LaCosta spent several seasons in Syracuse of the AHL, the Blue Jackets’ farm team. But he eventually grew tired of the minor-pro lifestyle. He wanted to start focusing on life outside of hockey, especially since he was soon to marry his long time girlfriend Katie.
So, LaCosta joined the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds for the 2011-2012 season.
Being a part of UNB’s 2013 championship team is one of LaCosta’s favourite career moments. He even places the championship victory above getting a shutout in the NHL.
“It’s a toss up between my first NHL win in overtime and winning a national championship with UNB last year. They were both really special,” he says.
“The shutout was great, but the winning in overtime was just so exciting. It was more of an emotional game than the shutout.”