Tonawanda News

College Sports

November 3, 2005

A breath of fresh air

Randy Harris has breathed new life into the Niagara University men’s hockey team this season. And it’s because after three years of frustration, Harris can breathe again himself.

The 23-year-old graduate student is back playing hockey for the Purple Eagles after sitting out the last three seasons because of respiratory problems that had seemingly put an end to a promising career. But after surgery to clear his damaged nasal passages, Harris is back better than ever.

The Grand Island native leads NU in scoring with 10 points on four goals and six assists after six games. Not bad for any player, let alone for one who saw his production and playing time dwindle over his first three seasons as a result of the health problems.

“How many people get a second chance in life?” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder asked. “Just to have the passion and the desire to play and his overall passion for Niagara hockey and to pursue this opportunity the way he did is a great story.

“I don’t know if anyone thought he would be this big of a part of our team. He’s been our biggest surprise.”

Harris had a strong freshman campaign in the 1999-2000 season, finishing with 12 goals and nine assists in 41 games as Niagara won the College Hockey America regular-season and playoff titles before upsetting New Hampshire in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He had 14 points in 30 games as a sophomore and 11 points in 22 games as a junior as he struggled with the effects of his respiratory problems. He failed to make the team as a senior, but at the time no one knew the reasons for his decline in


“It was really frustrating because I’ve had plenty of injuries before,” Harris said. “I’ve separated shoulders, I’ve broken bones, just like any other athlete who’s been through the ranks. But I couldn’t figure out what was going on with me. It was as frustrating a thing as I’ve ever gone through.”

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