Max Aaron hopes to win a medal in February at the Sochi Winter Games, where millions around the world will watch his ice show.
Before then, he hopes to keep sneaking from his seat near the rafters at World Arena for Colorado College games to more choice seats close to the ice. This skating celebrity plans to avoid the roaming eyes of ushers.
"You're going to get me in trouble here," Aaron said last week at the Champs Camp at World Arena. "Maybe sometimes I just happen to sit lower."
Aaron, 21, was a rare combination. He was promising hockey player and a promising figure skater, and he managed to juggle the two sports until he was 16.
That was when he suffered a horrific back injury while weightlifting. He fractured two vertebrae and spent four months in a body cast. The injury forced him to walk away from competitive hockey.
This is one severe injury story that features a happy ending. Aaron has a shot - a strong one - to win a medal in Russia. He's the defending U.S. champ, and he finished seventh in the World Championships in March.
Still, he left part of his heart with hockey. For the past four seasons, he's been a regular at World Arena for Colorado College games. He attends six or seven games a year, never missing Denver's visits. Aaron, raised near Phoenix, moved to Colorado Springs in 2008 to work with the Broadmoor Skating Club. He's a Cheyenne Mountain grad.
He begins his CC hockey nights sitting in comp seats high above the ice. He never ends the nights in those seats.
"I can't sit that high," Aaron said. "I like to sit in the action - lower bowl, center, right in the middle."
Aaron declined to offer tips on how to successfully sneak from up high to down low.
He also declines to think much about the what-ifs of his athletic career. Aaron is listed at 5-foot-8, and he realizes his height and slight build would have made it difficult, if not impossible, to compete at hockey's highest levels.
He's certainly thriving on the ice. When he ended his triumphant skate in January at the U.S. Championships, he pumped his fist. For hockey fans, this fist pumping looked familiar. It's the standard celebratory gesture following hockey goals.
Aaron skates in an athletic, borderline aggressive style. At times, you can see the hockey player he once was.
He's long past mourning the end of his hockey nights. He remains close to the game. He's a devout Detroit Red Wings fan. (Sorry, Avalanche supporters.) And he enjoys watching the college game, even though he has no favorite team. (Sorry, CC fanatics.)
"I always say I'm grateful," Aaron said of the injury that ended his hockey nights. "It was maybe a gift."