Career minor-leaguer Kevin Colley's dream of playing in the NHL ended three weeks ago when he broke his neck in a head-first crash into the boards.

The New York Islanders forward announced to his teammates during practice Friday on Long Island that he won't be able to return to club.

Colley, 27, has played only 16 games this season, and has yet to record a point.

It was Jan. 31 in a game versus the Washington Capitals that Colley attempted to check Jamie Heward into the boards. In the process, he hit the boards awkwardly and broke the fifth cervical vertebrae. Fortunately, he suffered no paralysis.

Two surgeries later, the New Haven, Conn., native said he feels "blessed that I am able to walk."

Colley starred with the Oshawa Generals in the Ontario Hockey League from 1996-99 but has toiled in relative anonymity since, spending the past six seasons in the East Coast and American Hockey leagues. The Islanders signed him as a free agent June 10, 2004.

Islanders general manager Mike Milbury praised Colley, who had 52 penalty minutes this season.

"When you consider that Kevin gave everything he had every time he stepped on the ice, it's especially sad," Milbury said. "The good news is that Kevin is going to lead a healthy and productive life."

with files from Associated Press