DENVER (CBS4) – David Carle is quickly climbing the coaching ladder, but the 25-year-old University of Denver hockey team assistant isn’t worried about when he gets there.

“I’d like to be a head coach,” Carle said. “But I thought I had my whole life planned out as an 18 year old, so I don’t plan that long in advance anymore.”

As a teenager, Carle had his sights set on the NHL. The Alaska native was going to be drafted, attend DU, and then become a star. But a pre-draft electrocardiogram (EKG) changed those plans.

“I was diagnosed with the condition I have now — hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — the day before my draft day and that forced me to retire,” Carle recalled. And just like that his playing days were over, but the good news, they caught it before it was too late.

“I felt very fortunate that even though my career was taken from me that I still had my life,” Carle said. “I was able to wake up every day and be around people that I love and still enjoy parts of life.”

David Carle (credit: CBS)

David Carle (credit: CBS)

Carle says it was hard at first, but he decided he still wanted hockey to be part of his future.

“Hockey was therapeutic for me,” Carle said. “Some people when something happens, they want to go away from it. For me being around it actually helped.”

DU still honored his scholarship and made him part of the program. When Carle graduated he became a coach, and within two years was back with the Pioneers.

“He is by far the best assistant I have had in my career,” DU head coach Jim Montgomery said. “I think his future as a head coach is really bright.”

David Carle (credit: CBS)

David Carle (credit: CBS)

Carle admits at times he still thinks about the future he could have had playing in the NHL. It’s hard not to when he sees his older brother Matt (who won two national championships at DU) enjoying a long and successful pro career.

“Human nature you feel sorry for yourself at times,” Carle said. “But my thought on the disease … it has already taken so much from me, why should I let it affect me negatively in other parts of my life?”

A life he feels lucky to have, and a message he now wants to share.

“I feel enormously fortunate to be here,” Carle said. “And to be able to talk about the disease and raise awareness for it, and the fact I am coaching hockey — the sport I love — I would consider myself a very lucky person.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy often goes undiagnosed. Early warning signs include fainting, a racing heartbeat, or shortness of breath after exercise. If a child shows any of those symptoms, and especially if there is a history of heart disease in the family, it is recommended they see a specialist and ask for an EKG.

Mark Haas is CBS4’s weekend sports anchor and sports reporter. Read his bio or follow him on Twitter @markhaastv or on Facebook.