GLENDALE (3TV/CBS 5) - Danny Castaneda returned to the ice this week with a heavy heart. On Nov. 6, on his way home from work, Danny’s dad was killed in a motorcycle accident.
“At first it was really like, I didn’t want to play no more. I just didn’t feel any urge at all,” said Castaneda, a left wing for Mountain Ridge High’s hockey team. “I talked it over with my grandma. We talked it over. That's when decided we'd keep doing it, do it for dad.”
Danny’s dad was just 34 years old. He liked to sit behind the glass at Peoria Ice and watch his son play.
“He had no volume control. No filter. I’m very conservative. My son did not get the memo on this,” said Irma Cuadros, Danny’s grandma. “A couple times got kicked out of the rink but his son knew that he was loudest person in audience."
After a month away, Danny returned to his Mountain Ridge High School team. The Lions played Centennial last Sunday. The game started with a moment of silence for his father.
“That’s all I really wanted, just to play for dad,” said Danny. “I didn’t think of myself, just thought about my dad.”
The game started with a moment of silence for his dad. Early in the first period, Danny was around the net. The puck bounced his way and he buried it in the top of the net. Danny had scored two goals all season. He collected two in the first period to help lead the Lions to a 5-2 win.
“He never left the building. He was always there. Any game now I can always tell he’s going to be there. Now I get a warm feeling in my stomach. I used to get butterflies,” said Danny. “I’m never going to stop playing hockey. Now I just feel like I have something to play for.”
After the game, there were hugs all around. Danny had played on the Centennial team last season.
It was a story made for a Disney movie.
Danny’s dad’s story wasn’t made for Disney. He had just recently re-entered his son’s life. Danny’s grandma had been raising him and his little brother.
“Little Daniel has been a rock. Every time I feel myself slipping away, he'll tell me let's focus on the positive. Let's focus on all the good memories. That's the only way I can make it through this,” said Irma Cuadros. “His dad battled with addiction, battled with life, battled with a lot. When I got custody of the boys two years ago, I told him that the only way you're going to be around him is you step up to the plate and be a dad. He got a job, he got clean. He brought them to their practices. He did everything a dad is supposed to do the past two years. He stepped up to the plate and was there for his boys. They were his world. He woke up every morning for him.”
Hockey helped Danny’s dad heal. It also has helped Danny stay on the right path. Irma first put him into hockey when the lived in Utah. Danny didn’t know how to skate. After convincing a figure skater to teach him, she sent him to practice in $7 rental skates. Other kids had skates that cost hundreds of dollars. Danny still won’t let his grandma buy him expensive hockey equipment.
“Really, at the end of the day, it’s the only thing that has saved him has been hockey. That's his release. That's what he holds onto. That's what makes him feel good about himself. That's what gets him up everyday. He walks, he talks, he watches TV. You go to his TV and he has hockey, a documentary. He has a stick. The garage door, holes all over from him hitting that puck,” said Irma.
“He was already going down a bad road where he was hanging out with kids he shouldn't be hanging out with. He was already into rap, bad music, when he was 12 introduced to marijuana. All of a sudden he got hockey, and he eats good. He exercises, he knows that's what he has to do play NHL. That's his ultimate dream."
In fact, Irma believes the last conversation that she had with her son, in person, foreshadows a conversation she will have with Danny.
“After everything his dad went through, I told him that one day we're going to sit across the table and I'm going tell you ‘look at you now.’ That morning that the accident happened his dad and I sat at Denny's and had breakfast and I told him ‘look at you now,” said Irma. “I believe that one day I will do that with Daniel.”
Danny has hopes of playing hockey after high school. His father’s memory will fuel his dreams.
“I gotta keep playing hockey until I physically can't play it anymore,” said Danny. “Until somebody says, 'you can't play hockey any more.' That's when I'll stop playing.”
The Mountain Ridge team surprised Danny by offering to pay for him to play hockey next season. Danny has taken over his dad’s old maintenance job to support the family. His team has also set up a GoFundMe.