Force's Aaron Huglen making a statement in return to the rink after devastating injury

After missing nearly two years of game action. the Roseau native is skating with a new perspective after coming back from a back injury.

Fargo's Aaron Huglen skates against Waterloo's Mason Reiners to shoot on goalie Logan Stein on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, at Scheels Arena. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO-- Playing for the Fargo Force is a dream come true for Roseau native Aaron Huglen. Hockey has always been a part of his life, until a freak injury took him off the ice for almost two years. Now the 19-year-old is skating with a new perspective as the injury has reshaped how he sees the game he loves.

“It’s easy for hockey players or any athlete to be finding your identity in hockey and once that’s gone it’s tough,” said Huglen.

Over the last nearly two years, Huglen didn’t have his usual view of the ice.

“It’s definitely tough, game days are the hardest. Just being in the rink and the energy and you wanting to be out there helping the guys as much as you can. But I think just trying to be positive and finding ways to help the guys in any way you can, just staying involved was the best way to go about it,” said Huglen.


The Buffalo Sabres draft pick went from scoring 14 points in his first USHL season during the 2018-19 season to watching the Force games from the bench.

“That’s definitely one of the biggest struggles is just doubting, like am I going to be able to make it back? Missing a year and a half is a big deal so yeah it was tough,” said Huglen.

It was a freak accident away from the rink though that rewrote Aaron’s story of how he views hockey.

“Aaron is extremely humble, he’s been through a lot. I have never seen a young man at his age experience what he has gone through and come back the way he is starting to come back. He’s not even close to reaching his full potential right now because of the long term injury that he sustained,” said Force Head Coach Pierre-Paul Lamoureux.

In the spring of 2019 Aaron thought he pulled a muscle in his back, it turned out to be something more than he could fathom.

“I just kind of went about it like trying to rehab a pulled muscle, which would take maybe three weeks to a month, and it wouldn’t heal. So finally I got an MRI and found out it was a bulging disc. So yeah it’s been pretty unknown and that carried on longer than what I expected to,” said Huglen.

“There was certainly a time period when we didn’t really know when or if he would be able to come back and play. I think as his return continued to get delayed and we didn't have a lot of answers to what exactly the prognosis was going to be or what his return would look like. There were certainly a lot of questions,” said Lamoureux.


That bulging disc meant Aaron had to endure 20 months of rehab before even thinking about playing hockey again.

“It’s been really hard, but I have been thankful for the injury too. Like I said, just growing as a person too. It’s definitely like an ideal comeback I guess you could say,” said Huglen.

Huglen was cleared to participate fully in practice in December, then last weekend against Sioux Falls he got the call he’s waited nearly two years for. Not only did he get the nod to play, but also hear his name called as a starter.

“Almost two years of not playing and to go out and do that is an extremely special moment,” said Lamoureux.

Nothing could have prepared Huglen or the Force for what last Saturday night was going to bring, a goal in the second period. In his first game back in nearly two years, he was playing as an extra forward hoping to make the most of his time while playing shorter shifts.

“It was really special. It was a good pass from our defenseman, fortunately their defenseman lost their stick and made a move on the goalie. So it was just really special, everything leading up to it and finally getting to score was awesome,” said Huglen.

“Aaron is a special hockey player. We see those types of plays from him everyday in practice. But to go out and execute like that in a game and to use his instincts and to finish with the poise he had on that goal, I was almost stunned. Our teammates, the whole bench was almost silent for about a second or two seconds and then it just erupted, the guys were so excited for him,” said Lamoureux.

Aaron’s dream of returning to the rink is now reality. His future is bright, but what he has learned about himself over the last two years is there’s more that makes him than the game he’s played his whole life.


“The biggest thing was just finding my identity in something else other than hockey. Hockey, I love it, it’s a blessing, but there’s just more things in life that are more important and can carry you along,” said Huglen.

In his first four games back in 2021, Huglen has already recorded six points in four games. In addition to being a fourth round pick by the Sabres in 2019, Aaron has verbally committed to play college hockey for the top ranked Minnesota Gophers.

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