He's down

A harrowing experience involving Giant Goalie Son

Bulldog
January 31, 2019 - 8:38 am

Photo: DREAMSTIME.com

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He’s down.

That’s the two-word text I quickly sent off to my wife seconds after the collision.

My thoughts are pretty straightforward and uncomplicated at first.

C’mon, get up.

C’mon, get up man. Please get up.

Damn, he’s not even moving. Now, the officials have taken the net off the moorings because that’s where my son Owen ended up after the collision that has him on his back, not moving. Inside of the net he was defending.

Moments ago, a puck squirted from the slot directly in front of Owen to his right. Already down in a butterfly position, Owen slid to his right as, simultaneously, an opposing player pounced on the loose puck for a clean, tight chance on goal. Owen made the save, but the shooter, making no attempt to stop or even slow down, crashed into Owen and basically cross checked him across the chest. That is the situation that unfolded and has left my son lying motionless.

As a rule, I try to steer clear of these situations when they involve my son. But as the people on the ice tending to Owen begin to look at one another and start scanning the crowd, I make my way behind the net to an open door to the ice. Chris Law, our manager and all around super-man, asks the first and most obvious question.

“Is your wife here?”

My wife Kirsten is a nurse practitioner and is often called upon when the situation on the ice becomes a bit more serious than the on ice officials are equipped to handle. Kirsten was on the ice in seconds flat back in December when Law’s son, Ethan, was knocked unconscious in Milton, Ontario.

“No, she’s not here”, I reply.

I walk out onto the ice and kneel beside my son. I reach for Owen’s hand. He’s been conscious the entire time, but the consensus is that he hit his head, either on the crossbar or the bar running down the middle of the back of the net. The initial force of the collision had sent his goalie mask flying so his head was completely unprotected.

He can feel my hand. I reach down under his leg just above his skate and pinch him. “Do you feel that?” He says yes. First sigh of relief from me.

“My head and neck really hurt and my spine feels really funny, like it’s tingling all the way down” he says. So much for that sigh of relief.

Al Stoddard, who runs the first ever goalie school Owen went to when he was just starting out and whom Owen worked for as an instructor last summer, is on the scene and takes charge. He works at the Fort Erie Leisureplex. Al sends someone to get a towel to very carefully place under Owen’s head and one of those tin foil blankets you see marathon runners use. Only a few minutes have passed since the collision occurred and I’m already terrified beyond belief on the inside, but calm on the outside.

Al calls an ambulance, which takes about 25 minutes to arrive. Honestly, I timed it.

While we wait, Owen says he feels like he might throw up. The four adults kneeling around Owen all exchange looks of concern. We’re not supposed to move him, right? Al says if he starts to vomit, we’ll have to roll him on his side as carefully as possible. Now I feel like I might throw up.

Thankfully, it doesn’t come to that and finally the ambulance arrives. We get his leg pads and skates off. They cut his jersey off, put on a neck brace and get him on a stretcher.

Amidst all of this, I’m able to tell my wife to meet us at the hospital in Niagara Falls, ON. I’m leaving my truck behind to ride in the ambulance. Law says he’ll meet us there. On the ride, I can tell Owen is scared. The EMT starts asking questions and Owen has no trouble answering. What team do you play for? What league? Do you remember the score when you got hurt?

“Well Lawzy told me I made the save on the play I was hurt on so I guess 3-0”.

I tell Owen that it’s going to be okay, that lots of guys get carted off like this and walk out of the hospital a few hours later. He agrees, citing Lawzy from earlier in the year, though Ethan missed a good chunk of time recovering from a concussion.

I won’t bog this down with too many details from here. It’s mostly waiting around between tests. The EMT’s and the hospital staff were all great. Everything just took a really long time, but that’s how it goes.

One of Owen’s teammates, Mitch Kiebala, shows up at the hospital with his mom. I bring Kibber’s back to where Owen is, on a bed in a hallway, and they talk some crap to one another. Let me say, if your kids are ever on a team and a player has to go to the hospital, go there if you can. Hearing Owen laughing with his teammate really made me feel better about everything even though we had yet to see a doctor.

Chris Law, of course, had been there almost right away. The only reason he probably didn’t beat the ambulance to the hospital was that he stopped for coffee, water and donuts. You need a friend like this guy in your life.

Owen got out of this with a concussion and a very sore back from the collision. Considering how it felt kneeling at his side on the ice when he said his spine felt all tingly, we feel very fortunate.

The level of fear I felt at various times is not something I’ll forget. Though I also think it’s important for me to remember that ultimately Owen ended up walking out of the hospital a few hours after arriving, just like I had told him in the ambulance. Of course, I had no idea whether or not that would be the outcome when I said it, but letting the fear overwhelm me wasn’t going to do anything for us at that point.

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