Nottingham Panthers ace Yann Sauve has new outlook on life after cancer scare


Yann Sauve calmly answers unremarkable questions about the opening months of his time with Nottingham Panthers as he stands outside the home dressing room.

It is not until he talks about his eight-month-old son that his eyes light up.

Perhaps that is not a great surprise from any father of a young infant, but Sauve’s path to fatherhood – and the Elite League – has not been a straightforward one.

At the age of 27, he has already overcome being hit by a car and successfully battled cancer after finding out he had the disease when his wife was pregnant.

Frankly, if he had not been beset with such difficulties he probably would not be at the Motorpoint Arena.

Nottingham was not necessarily his first choice destination as a free agent who ended last season by winning the DEL play-offs soon after getting the all-clear to resume playing.

The Elite League has a place on the food chain, even if it is climbing that ladder.

However, the defenceman is not plotting a move away. Instead, he is looking to settle down for a spell after playing in four countries in a challenging 12 months.

Yann Sauve playing for the Vancouver Canucks against the Edmonton Oilers in 2011

Now he is in Nottingham with a fresh outlook on life as he aims to make the most of his career – and being with his family.

“I was trying to get a contract (in the summer) and nothing was coming. I’d been talking to Corey (head coach Corey Neilson) for a while, for a few years really,” the French Canadian said.

“It was a good move for my family. I’ve got a young son.

“I wanted to get settled and this is a good move. It’s a good club and a good city.

“My family is alright and that’s important. I’ve been everywhere in the last few years.

“It was time to get settled and make the family happy.

“Cancer, it changes your outlook. As a hockey player you’re doing what you love.

“I was really scared by the cancer last year. It reminds you life is short. You have to enjoy it.

“Now I have my kid with me and I enjoy every moment with him.

“Thank god the cancer hasn’t spread and I don’t have to do chemo. You have a slap in the face, where you think ‘man that could have been it’.

“It could have been an even harder time. Life chose something different for me.

“You get a wake-up call to enjoy life and love every second of it.

“Having a baby changes your mindset. It gives you fresh ideas on life. He’s the best.”

Yann Sauve skates against the Edmonton Oilers
Yann Sauve skates against the Edmonton Oilers

Sauve’s career trajectory might have been different, as might so many other players blessed with talent.

He was a Vancouver Canucks prospect when he was hit by a car in September 2010. The accident left him with a concussion which ruled him out for three months.

Nonetheless, he made his NHL debut the following February, the first of eight appearances in hockey’s highest echelon.

Sauve was unable to establish himself and played largely in the AHL, making 227 appearances at that level until 2015.

An opportunity in the KHL followed, but he was diagnosed with testicular cancer late last year after playing 25 times for Medvescak Zagreb.

He ended last season with a brief stint back in the ECHL with Manchester Monarchs before an equally short time with Munich in Germany’s DEL.

Life in Nottingham may be less high profile, but it suits Sauve – and the club given his performance levels so far.

“We’re home every night in our own bed. That makes a huge difference on the body,” he said.

“You have long road trips, but it’s not a case of getting on a plane spending two days travelling. It’s good here.”

And so to the unremarkable hockey questions. Like so many imports in recent years, the Montreal-born D-man says the standard in the Elite League has been surprising, as Panthers look to maintain a sustained challenge on multiple fronts, something he feels they are equipped to do.

“The hockey is better than I thought it would be,” he said.

“There’s good players with good resumes. They come here because they didn’t have any other opportunities and they are surprised by the quality.

“You have really skilled guys and good teams, so it’s been good.

“Our team has been pretty good. There’s great guys here.

“I’ve known some of the imports here for a long time so it’s been pretty easy to settle in.

“We’re well looked after and if you need something it’s sorted.”



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