FRIDLEY, Minn. (WCCO) — A bright, young hockey career came to a tragic end ten months ago.

That is when Matt Olson, a former Totino-Grace High School hockey star, took a fall on the ice that left him paralyzed.

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But Matt came back to his former high school Wednesday to thank those who have inspired his amazing recovery.

The annual advent mass for students and families is a Totino-Grace holiday tradition. They gather in the school’s gymnasium to celebrate the Christmas story in symbol, song and prayer.

At the close of Wednesday’s mass came a homecoming that was mixed with heartbreak. That is when Matt’s return from tragedy brought the former hockey player a standing ovation.

Matt captained the Totino-Grace Eagle’s 2014 hockey team, which went to the state tournament. Matt continued pursuing a hockey career after graduation by playing for the U.S. Premier Hockey League’s junior team, the Chicago Cougars.

Matt Olson (credit: CBS)

Matt Olson (credit: CBS)

But his hockey days came to a sudden and tragic end last February, when he was hurt in a paralyzing on ice accident.

“I’ve made a lot of progress, I got my right arm, I can lift this high,” Matt said.

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He wanted to show his gratitude and thanks for the months of support, and he had the perfect opportunity in a gymnasium packed to the rafters with people

“I just keep working hard every day in therapy and at my house,” Matt said. “I can’t thank everyone enough, so thank you.”

Matt says he goes to therapy twice a week at Courage Kenny, where he is now concentrating on simple movements. More arm movement will someday help him do simple tasks like brushing teeth, washing his face and eventually feeding himself.

“To be more independent with those things, so it’s really encouraging and a lot of fun for me to see my progress in that,” he said.

Matt’s return Wednesday to the familiar Totino-Grace hallways brought everyone in the school a priceless gift.

“I just want to come and say thank you to everyone, that’s really helped, and it’s just been really unbelievable,” Matt said.

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It is a Christmas message of hope and inspiration from a hockey captain’s darkest day.