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Defenseman Cory Sarich opens up about horrific cycling accident

 Cory Sarich #16 of the Colorado Avalanche prepares to face the Nashville Predators at Pepsi Center on October 4, 2013 in Denver, Colorado
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Hockey players are notorious for their toughness, but free agent defenseman Cory Sarich takes it to another level.

On July 21, Sarich was riding his bicycle in British Columbia when he collided with a Ford F-350 after the elderly man behind the wheel failed to signal and made a left-hand turn right in front of him. Sarich hit his breaks but skidded underneath the truck, and was then run over by its right tire. Bleeding, bruised and with five cracked vertebrae; Sarich immediately got to his feet and called for help.

“The first thing in my mind was, ‘I’m not going to die here right now, so let’s get this thing moving,’” Sarich told the Calgary Herald on Wednesday.

Still recovering from the accident, the 36-year-old Sarich further detailed the experience in a conversation with the Denver Post on Thursday.

"Your lumbar spine, and thoracic spine, is so strong,” said Sarich. “And the fact that it was his rear tire, they said… like if it's the front side with an engine… could be a completely different story. Someone was looking out for me and I'm very thankful."

In addition to the fractured vertebrae, Sarich had a large divot taken out of his head, most of his fingertips were chiseled off, he had burns from the tailpipe and severe road rash. He is officially done with cycling, but has not given up on an eventual return to the ice.

"I was whipping myself into shape when this happened," said Sarich. "I don't know how it's going to work out (with hockey). Your priorities get put in a different order when something like this happens. I'm not going to completely close the door on hockey."

Sarich played last season with the Colorado Avalanche, scoring 10 points and was plus-7 in 54 games. A veteran of 969 NHL contests, Sarich has also played for the Buffalo Sabers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames; winning a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004.