VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA -- Aaron Voros is a very religious person.
He feels blessed every day he wakes up, feels like his just being here is a miracle in itself.
That's why Voros was so emotional Friday afternoon, just seven hours before the 26-year-old Wild "rookie" played his fourth NHL game and scored his first NHL goal, in front of 30 family members and friends in his hometown of Vancouver.
Five years ago, Voros didn't just think his hockey career was over. He thought his life was in jeopardy, and here he was Friday about to play an NHL game -- alongside Marian Gaborik, against Roberto Luongo -- in the place he was born and raised.
"It's just too much," Voros said. "This is what I've worked for. I just never want to take it for granted, and I don't believe I ever will."
In the second game of his second year at Alaska-Fairbanks, Voros fell on his leg and suffered severe pain. The next day he went for an X-ray and doctors discovered a lump behind his left knee half the size of a baseball.
After a magnetic resonance imaging test, the tumor was determined to be hot, red and vascular, he said, and three doctors over the course of three months diagnosed it as osteosarcoma, a type of malignant bone cancer.
"I tried to play through it," Voros said. "They said I had cancer, but I wanted to play and not think about it."
Voros was drafted by New Jersey in the 10th round (229th overall) in 2001. "Luckily, the Devils stepped in," he said. "They wanted me to go for second and third opinions, and I'm fortunate. After three biopsies, they finally decided it was benign.
"After playing every two games and always missing time so I could fly to Vancouver and Seattle to get tested, I finally at Christmas plunged in and had all the surgeries. They carved around my tumor, so they took out a little bit of femur and they packed it with cadaver. Then, while recovering, I got a staph infection in my leg."
Voros had a Hickman line inserted into his heart.
"I had these tubes in my heart attached to a fanny pack that fed antibiotics into my system 24 hours a day, seven days a week for eight weeks," Voros said. "I had to flush the tubes out every day with saline because the end of the tube by the heart would clot. It was pretty nuts."
In all, Voros had six operations. He was bedridden during his recovery, and his weight dropped from 205 pounds to 155.
"Obviously I worked hard before, but I had to work my tail off to get back into form," Voros said. "I played that final season of college [in 2003-04] and then signed with the Devils.
"You know, you think you're invincible, at least I did. When you're young and go through something like that, you say, 'Not me, not me.' Personally, I think it's a miracle when you have two or three doctors who do this for a living diagnose it as malignant cancer.
"I just thank the Lord. A lot of people around me helped. I'm just very thankful because it could have gone a lot different way."
Voros was acquired by the Wild on March 1 for a seventh-round pick after assistant GM Tom Lynn said he pursued him for two months.
Now Voros, a 6-3, hard-nosed grinder, is in the NHL, playing in front of family and friends -- at least for now. He knows he could be back in Houston at any time.
"I worked so long and hard to get here," he said. "I'm so thankful for this organization for having faith in me and giving me this opportunity. I'm blessed to be here and will continue to work my butt off."