Concussion ends Edson’s on-ice career, but California native still contributing at Air Force
Post-concussion symptoms have kept Max Edson from taking a regular shift for four years, but they haven’t prevented him from contributing to a successful college hockey program.
The 24-year-old, once a highly-recruited forward prospect from Hermosa Beach, has displayed a rare perseverance while carving out an important niche as a video coordinator for the Air Force Academy.
“He’s a great young man,” Falcons coach Frank Serratore said. “It was unfortunate the concussions ended his hockey career, but he’s going to be a great Air Force officer, and he’s going to do great things in life.”
Edson experienced several plot twists and turns in his hockey career.
He played for LA Hockey Club and coach Sandy Gasseau through Bantams and then for Oliver David, now an assistant with Portland of the Western Hockey League, at Midget 16U AAA. After not making an 18U AAA team the next season, he had an offer to play at Salisbury School in Connecticut for his last two years of high school.
“Max was a standout for us in a time of a lot of uncertainty,” David said. “Many members of his previous, very successful team had left town to play elsewhere, so the combination of a lot of new players and jumping up to Midget hockey was certainly a learning experience for all of us.
“He was our captain, and he always had a smile on his face.”
From Salisbury, Edson played two seasons for Waterloo of the United States Hockey League (USHL).
He had his eye on schools like Boston University and Miami University, and the interest seemed mutual. Air Force approached him before his senior year at Salisbury, but he passed.
“I had bigger hockey aspirations at that time,” Edson said.
Edson battled injuries in his second USHL season, something that changed his outlook. AFA’s continued pursuit made it a match the second time around.
“I liked how it’s right on the mountain side, and (former Falcons goalie and fellow Hermosa Beach native) Jason Torf was a longtime friend who always had good things to say about it,” Edson said. “I realized it was somewhere I could play immediately. I knew it was a way different experience than just being at a normal school.
“I also wanted to go somewhere that had good academics in case I got hurt. So I guess it worked out in that sense.”
Edson’s skill set – David cited his skating, compete level and work ethic as calling cards – was welcomed at the Academy.
“We don’t have a lot of kids from the USHL on our roster,” Serratore said. “If he was playing today, he would be in that Tyler Ledford, Ben Kucera, Matt Serratore conversation. He’d be a top-six forward for us, and we have a pretty good team.”
The Falcons are coming off a 20-win season and came within an overtime goal of playing for a berth in the NCAA tournament last April.
Edson’s Air Force career began – and ended – after five games in 2012.
“It was a fluke accident in practice,” he recalled. “I stepped on a stick, fell and hit my head on the boards.”
Edson passed a concussion test and resumed playing, but he could tell something wasn’t right.
“I thought my allergies were causing pressure on my head,” he said. “I played for a month and it got worse and worse. I finally had to tell them, ‘I’m not doing this.’”
His hockey season finished, Edson wondered if his hockey career might be over when he returned to Southern California for the 2013-14 school year.
“I wanted to resume my education, but I still had symptoms and I realized I couldn’t put myself in that situation again,” he said. “I’ve never fully gotten over it, but I’ve learned how to manage it. Some medical devices have helped me out, but exercise still bothers me.”
Yet hockey’s draw was too strong, and Edson missed the parts of the game that most fans don’t get to see.
“We have a close-knit group at Air Force, and I wanted to get back into it,” he said. “I thought maybe there was a chance I could play again, but as time went by I realized I couldn’t. I started helping with video as a way to stay close to the guys.
“It kept me in a routine and kept my mind off of what I’d lost. I didn’t want to let myself go, so I kept busy and tried to stay as active as possible.”
That includes the occasional game of shinny during the offseason.
“It’s nice when I am able to get on the ice with the boys,” he said.
Falcons senior forward Tyler Rostenkowski often studies with fellow economics major Edson, who has a second major in management and will work in acquisitions for the Air Force after he graduates. Rostenkowski says his friend remains an integral part of the team.
“When I go on the ice and see him, I tell him, ‘Today is for you, Eds,’ because I know how much he wishes he could be out there,” Rostenkowski said. “He’s such a talented player, you can see it when he just starts skating around. His skills and the abilities to see the ice and stickhandle might be the best on the team if he could play.
“As a hockey player, you’re going to be around the game or connected to the game somehow. He’s obviously not in the locker room, but we feel his presence. We want him around as much as possible.
“We definitely appreciate the insights he has because he has a different perspective and he’s a skilled guy. He’s always there to help guys, whether academically or on the ice. “
Edson’s help includes providing data to help the Falcons’ present, as well as their future. In addition to clipping games as Air Force plays to provide footage the coaches can utilize to make in-game adjustments, he and a team manager have created a set of statistics that measure data beyond the standard categories.
He also does legwork in preparing for future opponents and scouting potential recruits.
“On Sunday and Monday, I’ll gather video from the team we’re going to be playing from their games the past weekend and have that ready for the coaches Monday afternoon,” he said. “And they’ll let us know prospects they want to see clips of, so I’ll go to HockeyTV (formerly FASTHockey) and find those and compile them.”
Edson does it all with a smile on his face, just as when he played.
“Doing what he’s doing now demonstrates his love for the game,” David said. “It’s not surprising to me his teammates enjoy having him around. Everyone I’ve talked to has always pulled for him because of the type of kid he is.”
Press box photo/Chris Bayee; Action photo/Air Force Athletics
— Chris Bayee