What Comes Around, Goes Around

College Hockey Player Trades His Blades For Wheels To Raise Money And Awareness For Cause Close To His Heart

 

For Louis Chaix, it wasn’t about setting a world record. Nor was it about attention or social media fame. Instead, rollerblading across the country was about raising awareness for the disease that almost took his life.

When he was only 6 years old, Chaix was diagnosed with Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, a rare skin disorder that left 80 percent of his body with second degree burns.

Always the fighter, he overcame those steep odds and survived the rare condition. 

Fast forward several years, and Chaix was in a place mentally and physically where he wanted to give back.

“I was in a really good space mentally and had this idea of skating across the country that I couldn’t get out of my mind,” he says.

“But I knew I needed a reason to do it. I always wanted to get involved with the disease I had, but I never knew how, and I never knew when. Then one day this thought just came into my brain and that’s when I realized that I was onto something.”

Chaix and his hockey teammates from Missouri State University were always rollerblading around campus, “kind of like the Mighty Ducks,” he says with a laugh.

But this was going to be more than just a spin around campus. More specifically, he was aiming to skate 2,902 miles.

And so, on June 1, he strapped on his skates in Los Angeles and began his long trek to Times Square in New York City. 

Chaix physically trained for years to prepare for the arduous trek. He eventually reached a point where he felt a “calm and peaceful” feeling as the world followed along. And cheering him on were many in the hockey community.

“A lot of my teammates thought I was crazy,” Chaix admits with a chuckle, “but they were all really supportive.”

Among those teammates was Brady Griffin, who played with Chaix at Missouri State.

“He’s always had that drive,” Griffin says of his friend’s “crazy” journey. “Louis was always the guy at the gym putting in the extra work. But before he did this, I wouldn’t have thought anyone would be able to skate across the country. I thought that was crazy for anybody, but looking back on it, he was the perfect guy for it.”

Griffin joined Chaix for six miles of the trek in Missouri on a scorching hot Tuesday in July. Joining the pair was Kyle Culiberk, who grew up playing hockey with Griffin, but had never before met Chaix. 

Culiberk was touched by the survivor’s story, and the two finally met as they were putting on their skates in the parking lot, but that it felt like they “had been playing hockey together all [their] lives.”

“When Brady and I saw we both had the opportunity to go skate with him, we took advantage of it and went ahead and did it,” says Culiberk, who played at Southern Illinois University. 

“We just wanted to show a little bit of support, and hopefully it could help him out and get him to his goal.”

Chaix says having Culiberk and Griffin, along with other teammates join him for stretches of the skate were among some of the most memorable moments of his journey. As was a swing through Nashville where he met a group of roller hockey players that reached out to him on social media prior to his journey. 

Along the way Chaix skated through thunderstorms in Albuquerque, N.M., crossed paths with bears and was even hit by a car in Indianapolis. But for any challenges he encountered along the way, it was the people and the friendships that made the miles roll by.

“It’s surreal that people were willing to put their life on hold for a second and be a part of this and support me and my mission,” he says. “And the fact that they’re my teammates was even more special because no matter what, you always have that bond with those guys. It’s cool to see that it goes beyond being teammates on the ice.

“A lot of people would thank me for letting them be a part of this. And I would always say, ‘no, it’s the other way around.’ It’s people like that who really made this this journey so special.”

Chaix finished his 2,902.41-mile skate across the country on July 17 in a record-breaking 45 days, 10 hours and 44 seconds. He traveled through 13 states, reached 132,872 feet of elevation and skated as fast as 53 miles-per-hour.

“It was a pretty special feeling to create something from the ground up, to act on it and then to see the impact you’re having and to know its positive enough for people to want to be a part of it,” he says. “It was really rewarding and something I’m really thankful for.”

A documentary film of Chaix’s journey is in the works and he hopes to have ready in time for upcoming film festivals. The goal is to raise money for research Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis.

As he sets aside his rollerblades for the time being, his focus shifts to finding a way back on the ice. The 24-year-old moved to the States from France to play hockey, but is currently without a team as he finishes up his college credits.

“Coming off of this journey, I just want to play,” he says. 

“If I was able to skate across the country, I’m sure I can find a way to play somewhere. You can’t do it alone, but the hockey world has proven to me that it tends to come together to help each other out. 

“If there’s any opportunity out there, I’m here, I’m ready to play, to put my skates on and to keep this this going because hockey is my whole life.”

 

Caleigh Burchfield is the 2022-24 Brian Fishman Fellow.
Issue: 
2022-11

Poll

What's Your Favorite Thing About The Hockey Season?
Hanging out with all of my friends.
13%
Dangle, snipe, celly!
16%
Getting a great workout in.
5%
All of the the above!
66%
Total votes: 613