Five months have passed, but the pain is still so agonizing Kurtis Foster can barely talk about it.
"I don't know how to explain it," the former Wild defenseman said. "It was the hardest thing that's ever happened to me, that's ever happened to my wife or could ever happen to anybody.
"But Steph and I have stuck together. It's a long, tough process."
Life has a way of reordering priorities in painful ways. Foster, now with the Edmonton Oilers and ready to play the Wild on Thursday for the first time since leaving in 2009, has experienced that more than most.
There was, of course, that accident in San Jose 2 1/2 years ago when Foster was hit from behind while chasing a puck. His femur snapped in half, and many felt his hockey career was over.
But he persevered through 11 months of excruciating rehab, returned to play 10 games the following season for the Wild and then went to Tampa Bay last season, where he had a career year with 42 points.
A month after the season ended, Foster's life was turned upside down again.
On May 10, only five days after his and his wife's first child was born, Lila Kimberly died in a Tampa hospital because of a head injury suffered during birth.
The tragedy came two weeks after Foster was named a finalist for the Bill Masterton Trophy, given annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
"I can't even imagine what he and his wife went through," said defenseman Nick Schultz, who attended the memorial in Peterborough, Ontario, with his wife, Jessica. "To prepare for your first baby for nine months who's clearly healthy, and to have that excitement and that joy, and then for this to happen, it's devastating."
Edmonton's call a relief
Foster passed on the NHL awards ceremony in Las Vegas. He deactivated his Facebook account because reading all the notes congratulating him on his daughter's birth was too heartbreaking.
"You wanted to kind of shut yourself off for a while," Foster said. "When you go through something like that, you can depend on your family and your friends, and everyone we expected to be there for us was there for us, and it's made it a lot easier. It's been a long summer."
Alleviating some of the stress regarding his future was Edmonton calling immediately after free agency began July 1.
"I didn't know what to expect, what my [playing] options would be, and Edmonton called and didn't even mention the past," he said. "They didn't worry about my leg or what happened [with my daughter]. They just wanted me to be here, to help this team win.
"It meant everything. We're starting over. It's a new beginning."
Happy to be back in St. Paul
The pain is such that Foster, 28, is still struggling to make sense of it all. He and his wife are mourning privately. But in the meantime, he's back in a hockey rink and back in his beloved St. Paul.
"There's been a lot of bumps in the road," Foster said. "We kind of persevered all the way through it and are on the path we hope to be on. My wife and I are doing really well, and we're hoping things start bouncing the right way for us."
Foster can't be more excited about Thursday's game at Xcel Energy Center. After many silently doubted he'd play again after breaking his leg, stepping on the ice will be another step toward showing everybody that he did it.
"The fans there were so supportive, and I'd love to show them that I'm back the way I used to be," Foster said.
Foster said he's indebted to the Wild. Instead of cutting him loose after the injury, former GM Doug Risebrough eased Foster's worries by re-signing him for another year.
"If I had been back at home doing the rehab on my own as a free agent, I don't know if I'd be here right now," Foster said.
Building on successful season
After the injury, nobody told Foster his career was over. But nobody told him his career would continue either.
"As hockey players, you get hurt, then you rehab and recover and get back on the ice." Foster said. "There were definitely days where I wasn't sure if I wanted to come in the next day. But now, it was all worth it."
Foster, who finished sixth among NHL defensemen last year with 26 power-play points, said he has no ill effects from the injury. He can stop and start, turn both ways and push up ice.
"Basically, I don't notice it at all," he said.
Wednesday night, Foster planned to reunite with his closest friend on the Wild, captain Mikko Koivu, and his old roommate, Nick Schultz.
"Definitely Mikko's paying for dinner, and I'm definitely picking the restaurant," quipped Foster, referring to Koivu's $47.25 million extension this offseason. "I'm kind of excited most to come out of the tunnel.
"It was always something I cherished in Minnesota, when the fans are all standing and the music's going. It always gives you goosebumps. Any guy in the league, not just myself, will tell you what it's like to play in front of those fans and in that building."