Aaron Bendickson was already back in Madison on Thursday evening, preparing for the spring semester at the University of Wisconsin. Just a couple days ago, he was helping the Gwinnett Gladiators win their fourth straight game.
In a weird twist, Bendickson had to return to school to finish his economics degree. The native Minnesotan was planning on taking his two remaining courses this summer, but his academic advisor sent him an e-mail telling him the university now wasn't going to be offering those classes then. Bendickson's scholarship won't cover the cost if he doesn't get it done before this fall. So he left.
The paper had an early deadline again Thursday because of the continuing issues with icy roads, so I had to file my story for Friday's edition before I talked to Bendickson. But I wanted to include his comments here, though they don't differ from the details of the situation I had in the article.
He very nicely called me back in the early evening, although he undoubtably had more than a few things to take care of at school.
"Financially I couldn't pass it up," Bendickson said. "It was a tough decision, but that's life."
Bendickson will definitely be missed. He's a tremendous skater and puck handler. Very shifty and creative. Just plain fun to watch on the ice. He also goes hard every shift.
Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle thought there was a possibility Bendickson could be brought back for some games. But not for at least 45 days since Pyle had to suspend him in order to keep the rookie's rights for the future.
Bendickson said he is "absolutely" interested in coming back next season.
"This is just a bump in the road," Bendickson said. "Hopefully I can play again (after this). I had a good time down there, but it was a decision that had to be made."
It is tough to see him go, but it's clearly the smart choice. Pyle will certainly want Bendickson back, even if it isn't until next fall and hopefully the 24-year-old will get to play many years before he needs to use that economics degree.