Updated: Jul 7, 2019
As the Colorado Avalanche emerged from the arena darkness and took the ice, an anxious mother leaned forward in Section 112, praying to spot her son wearing the sweater of the defending Stanley Cup champs. "There he is," shouted Jean Severyn. "That's my boy. That's Brent Severyn. And he has his uniform on. So let's hope he actually gets to play tonight." Colorado's Brent Severyn had to wait until age 31, and was forced to sweat through 558 games from Saskatoon to Miami, before he made his first NHL playoff appearance with his mom in the audience. And, truth be known, Jean Severyn never expected to live to see it. "Everybody, myself included, is amazed I'm still walking around on this earth," said Jean Severyn, bursting with maternal pride as she watched the Avalanche skate at the Edmonton Coliseum. "Even my doctor doesn't believe I'm still here. Years ago, after my stroke, I remember him telling us I wasn't going to be around much longer. But here I am." Happy Mother's Day. In his first postseason with the Avalanche, Brent Severyn has no chance of winning the Conn Smyth Trophy as the playoffs' MVP. A plow-horse defenseman with eight goals to his name in five NHL campaigns is unlikely to score so much as a point against the Oilers or anybody else Colorado faces this spring. But his handsome face is painted on the hockey rink in his tiny hometown of Vegreville, Alberta (population: 5,200) - and that's enough for Jean Severyn. "Only player from Vegreville ever to make it to the NHL," she said. Brent Severyn could plant his mother a 40-acre field of daisies today, and it couldn't be any more beautiful than what he already has done for her. Although it might sound silly, the Avalanche's enforcer is a momma's boy. But anybody who has ever met Jean Severyn knows that's a compliment. "We are the same person," she said. "Brent is a softie. He has a big, sweet marshmallow for a heart. When he gets in a fight on the ice - ho, ho - I get sick to my stomach. How he ever made a living in the NHL as a fighter, I'll never know." It must be in his genes. Jean Severyn was supposed to be dead before her son got his first NHL goal four years ago. Since before he was old enough to believe in mortality, Brent Severyn's mother has been pushing the limits of life. She survived heart surgery when he was a kid. And on a December night earlier this decade, Len Severyn returned home for dinner, only to find his wife on the kitchen floor, a swollen tongue in her throat and a her right side paralyzed from a stroke. How many times in the next tense 48 hours did Len Severyn pick up the telephone, only to put it back down, not knowing whether to call a son playing minorleague hockey 2,500 miles away to come home for a funeral? "More than anything else, my mom has taught me an understanding of mortality," said Brent Severyn. "You and I and everybody's mom will die eventually. So you make the most of this day." Funny, Jean Severyn looks at her 6foot-2, 210-pound son today and doesn't see the brawler who led the Avalanche in penalty minutes, but a toddler whose fondest Christmas wish was a little red fire truck. In her eyes, Brent Severyn forever will be that 3-year-old kid knocking slap shots at ladies in curlers inside the beauty salon she once owned. "Now," announced Jean Severyn, squeezing her face in hopes of containing her emotions, "we've got to stop talking about how I shouldn't be here tonight, or I'm going to start crying." Then, as Colorado's No. 23 warmed up alongside his teammates, she smiled so hard it hurt. No. 23 is a baby Jean Severyn still loves to hug. And Brent Severyn doesn't need a holiday or a greeting card to remind him how precious is a mother's love. Because every new day Jean Severyn gives him is another line of poetry.