There is No ‘EYE’ in ‘TEAM’
Meanwhile, back in The ‘Lou, before the ugliness ensued, I was giving new meaning to the term, ‘keep your eye on the puck.’
As I mentioned in the previous installment, during the Predators team warm-ups, I ended up on the wrong end of a shot launched by Nashville Predators forward, Sergei Kostitsyn, with the puck striking me pretty squarely in the left eye.
The good news is, I wear glasses, and in this case I’m convinced that they acted as ‘safety glasses’ for me. However I did get cut; the wound required four stitches to close and now three days later, I’ve got a pretty nice shiner to go along with it. But I’m fine, and thankfully on the mend. All in all, while the experience hasn’t exactly been ‘fun,’ it has been interesting; and I’m all about interesting.
So you’re probably wondering about the details of how it happened. Here’s the not-so Reader’s Digest version, as best my shocked and fevered mind was able to reconstruct the details. Oh, and a bit of fair warning here: this will be a long, sometimes rambling post; not about the hockey game itself, but rather, what happened to me at the hockey game, explained in excruciating (but hopefully entertaining) detail.
You’ve been warned.
Cheering the Boys
On this past weekend’s Section 303 Roadtrip to Columbus and St. Louis, most of the Nashville fans who attended the games did what they like to do at home: arrive at the arena early, go down to the glass, and watch the teams warm-up. It allows us to get close to the players, physically, and even to interact with them on a limited basis. For me, it offers the chance to take pictures that hopefully – if they’re any good – I can use for my blog. That’s what I was doing when I got hit.
The above photo was taken from the exact spot where I was standing just a few minutes prior to the accident. I was about four feet from the glass, standing in the aisle adjacent to the second row of seats at the Scottrade Center. Notice there, next to recently-departed Zack Stortini, you can see one of the metal stanchions separating the sections of glass. My vantage point was far enough from the end of the ice that it was beyond the reach of the suspended, protective netting that shields those seated beyond the endzone area from puck deflections off sticks — or ricochets off the goal crossbar (go figure). For the sake of reference, the top of the glass extended at least three feet above my head at this point. It would have been impossible for a puck coming off a stick from anywhere on the ice to have hit me.
Nevertheless, one did hit me, but it wasn’t a line drive; it was a pop-fly.
Returning to the picture: In the background you’ll notice forward David Legwand, scooping pucks out of the back of the net before redistributing them to the players on the ice (most of whom are outside the photo frame here) as Pekka Rinne prepares to take his position in net. The Preds skaters will then take turns firing shots on goal both in various situational drills and then later, in rapid-fire succession.
The sequence lasts for about two or three minutes, then Pekka leaves the net and the players begin firing shots on net en masse, in a final flurry of target practice for about another minute. They reprise the entire progression (with a few other variations) over the course of the full warm-up period.
It was during one of those final flurries that I got nicked.
You wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses, would’ja?
I had just finished taking a series of mostly-blurry, useless action shots of the players, when I was looking down at my camera — I believe I’d previewed a shot and was in the process of turning the camera off for the moment. I was still looking down when I heard someone call out, “HEADS!”
I looked up just in time to see the puck tumbling about a foot from my face. There was no time to react. I knew I was screwed.
I felt the thud, however, the impact was almost totally painless; my glasses were knocked askew off of my face, but only on the left side — the right earpiece was still in place. When I took hold of my glasses to straighten them out I immediately realized that the left lens was missing.
At that moment, for some reason it seemed more important that my glasses lens was missing than the fact that I’d just been smacked up the side of the head by a rock-hard, hunka-hunka frozen vulcanized rubber at who-knows-how-many miles per hour. Inexplicably, I immediately began scanning the floor, searching for the missing lens
“Dude! You’re cut” I heard someone nearby call out. Then I felt the trickle of blood begin to stream from the left side of my face; I saw drops falling to the floor like little blood bombs being released from the bomb bay door that was the gash beneath my left eye. I remember trying not to think of how big the gash was as I aimlessly continued to search for my lost lens.
Then fellow 303 Roadtripper, OnThe Forecheck.com contributor, Seth Lake placed his hand on my shoulder, “AJ, you’re cut, you’re bleeding pretty bad.”
“Yeah, I know,” I growled, “But I really gotta find that lens!” I continued to wander, studying the three square-foot area in and around where I’d been standing; the blood continued to drip from my goatee.
“You can’t stay here!” Seth pleaded.
“I don’t know what to do! Where do I go?” I said almost frantically. I was obviously more dazed and confused than I was aware of at the time (and BTW, it is TOTALLY surreal for me right at this moment to realize just how freaked out I really was. I can NOT thank Seth enough for stepping in and helping me to get it together).
The kindly Mister Lake directed my shoulders 180 degrees counter-clockwise and began leading me up the stairs and out of the lower bowl, I heard him make some reference to getting me some help. It was then I looked up to see a female usher or security person with a walkie-talkie in her hand, asking me to follow her. The next thing I knew, we were beating a brisk path down a corridor off the main concourse, into the Scottrade Center’s First Aid facility, my left hand cupping my eye and hoping like hell I wasn’t dripping blood on my brand new Predators Gold home jersey; you know, the same one I threw a hissy fit about last summer? Yeah, that one. What can I say? It’s grown on me.
I am such douche sometimes. But anyway…
As we walked into the infirmary, a pair of very nice ladies sprang into action and immediately began to take care of me.
It was at that point I began to come to my senses. I handed my camera to Seth, who stayed with me the entire time I was being treated. “Well, take my picture, dammit!” I said in mock derision.
One of the attendants cleaned my wound (I believe they were both registered nurses, but I don’t know for sure — only that they couldn’t have been kinder or made me feel any more comfortable throughout my dealings with them). At this point I had no idea the size or grotesqueness of the laceration. All I knew was that I could still see out of my left eye; that in and of itself should have been enough of a gift, but I was feeling greedy; I wanted my glasses lens back. Screw the cut under my eye; there was no way it could compare to the hassle of being half-blind for the next who-knows-how-many days while awaiting a new pair of specs to be made. I can see fine from a distance without glasses, but I cannot read or write without them; and DUDE — I was definitely gonna need to be able to write about this little experience.
Given that it was still fifteen minutes before game time, I asked the nurses to please ask the arena staff to have someone go back to area where I was standing and see if they could find my ejected glasses lens. She immediately got on the wireless and called the usher who’d led me to the first aid station to see what she could do.
The Head Nurse then began taking down my information, along with an official description of the accident, while the other nurse gave the wound a thorough cleansing. By this time my head had pretty much cleared and I have good recall of pretty much everything that happened from that point forward.
The nurse looked at the wound again and said it would definitely require stitches; I’d need to go to the hospital to get the work done. The other nurse handed me some gauze pads and a baggie full of ice and told me to keep ice on the wound until I got there.
She asked if I preferred an ambulance or a cab.
“I really don’t care as long as I don’t have to pay for it.” I said with a smile, but in dead seriousness. No way was I going out-of-pocket for any part of this little shindig. The nurse then started to go through the verbal laundry list of area hospitals that could get me in relatively quickly — in other words, within 3-4 hours. She quickly dismissed the two with the best trauma facilities, saying, “You might be waiting there all night before someone could see you.”
I appreciated her candor.
She finally decided on SSM St. Mary’s, which according to the nurse was one of St. Louis’s best medical centers although it was well outside the downtown area. She said it’d take a bit more time to get there, but they’d likely be able to get me in quicker. She took a moment to call me a cab.
Soon after that, the head of Security for the Blues came in to say hello and see how I was feeling. I said that I was fine but asked him how the medical compensation for something like this works. Do I use my insurance and have them back-bill the NHL? He said yes, that’s how it usually goes for people who have insurance (and thank GAWD I did). He gave me his card and told me that I’d be hearing from the league soon, but if I had any questions to just give him a call. I appreciated that very much. He also handed me a voucher to pay the cab company with whom Scottrade has a standing service contract.
A Cab! A Cab! My Kingdom For a Cab
After I’d signed all the necessary paperwork and had been briefed by all the right people, the nurse led me back out into the corridor. Meanwhile, during all this time, Seth Lake was still with me, offering his assistance; the guy’s a prince, itellya. But I was fine; my head was clear and there was no way I was gonna ask him to sacrifice seeing the game just to accompany me to the hospital. He’d done more than enough already. I asked him to go back into the arena and enjoy the game, which he did, but only after repeatedly asking if I was sure I wanted him to.
Thanks again, Seth. You were great.
The Head Nurse and I continued down the hall, to a glassed-in waiting area within the main security office. That room exited outdoors to a small plaza that was the Scottrade Center’s security and employee entrance.
The nurse had mentioned that there was an on-duty policeman outside, assigned to the area’s narrow driveway which wound in and around a parking structure from two of the main streets that flank the arena. She approached the officer and asked if it would be okay for me to wait there with him until my cab arrived. The cop seemed like a nice enough guy, but he took one look at me in my Preds jersey and said, “Yeah, sure,” but his eyes were screaming, “why should I help him?” He’d warm up considerably after a few minutes, but I can’t say that at first, it didn’t feel a little weird.
I thanked the nurse for all her help as she retreated into the building. I then began the long wait, mincing small talk with the policeman and observations of all the various passersby, officials, and Scottrade employees continuously coming and going. I could see through the ground-level windows into the arena building; the fans milling about on the concourse. The TeeVees that dotted the concession stands were too small for me to be able to make out any information about the current score of the game. It was after 7:00; had it even started yet?
I was wearing a path into the concrete plaza above the curb, winding my way on a serpentine route from the ground-level window to the pavement near where the policeman was standing, circumnavigating a pair of contiguously-parked unmarked police cruisers.
Ten minutes turned into thirty, then thirty into forty-five; still no taxicab.
On occasion, the officer and I would make eye contact. He’d flash a quizzical look as if to say to me, “what the HELL is taking that cab so long?” I’d reply, “Yep, I’m still here.” He asked my name and took it upon himself to call the cab company to check on my ride. After hanging up he shrugged and said, “They insist that your driver is on his way — from somewhere.”
By this time, the ice in the baggie I’d been holding to my eye was slush; water was beginning to either run down my arm or drip onto my pants every other step I’d take. I asked the policeman if I could return to the infirmary to get a fresh bag of ice and some non-bloodied gauze, and he said “Sure.”
I walked back into the building and to the infirmary where both nurses were flabbergasted that I still hadn’t been picked up. I received my requested supplies and decided that while I was there it might be good to lose the Preds jersey to mitigate the possibility that someone might want to mess with me at some point later on. I also wanted to grab a look at my battle scar for the first time. So I stepped into the restroom there just off the infirmary’s main room and snapped the picture below in the restroom mirror. My suspicions were pretty much confirmed. It was my glasses frame that had done the damage — not the puck. Wow; I came so very close to serious injury.
I shuddered a little.
As I stepped out of the restroom, I heard a very bad sound: the hockey goal horn, reverberating throughout the hallways surrounding the infirmary. The Blues has scored. I glanced at the TeeVee there in the room and sure enough, it was Patrick Berglund at 7:44 of the first; 1-0, St. Louis.
I couldn’t believe that it was still in the first period; it seemed as though I’d been outside waiting for two hours. I’d learn later that I actually had. After all it was Opening Night. The start of the game had been delayed by a lengthy series of festivities: dancers, videos projected off of draperies suspended from the scoreboard, blue men, yellow men, pudgy blue and yellow men, tributes to fallen NHL players lost during The Summer From Hell, ‘Game Ready’ motivational speakers, exercise videos, and divers pyrotechnic displays.
I went back outside and waited for another 45 minutes; no love. The cop was now suggesting I go back and insist that they try a different cab company. I figured I had nothing to lose. I went back in, again to the utter disbelief of the nurses that I was still stuck in Scottrade purgatory.
The head nurse volunteered to make another phone call to the cab company. I cooled my heels, looked up at the monitor and saw that the Preds had tied it up 1-1 after Period One; it was near the end of the first intermission. Craig Smith: Hockey Wunderkind, had scored his second goal in the second game of his NHL career on a nifty rebound put-back under the arm of Blues’ goalie Jaroslav Halac.
I was feeling better already.
I asked for and received yet a second change-out on my ice bag along and gauze. Oh! And there was something else! The Head Nurse excitedly announced, “They found your lens!” She retrieved it from a locked drawer and handed it to me. I placed it in a plastic bag and stuck it in my pocket, thanked them again, and headed back outside for a third time.
Gotta get myself compensated
This time the crowd was far thinner on the plaza than in my previous two visits. There but was a lone figure standing there as I approached; a middle-aged lady on a smoke break who saw the ice bag and immediately took an interest in my plight. She wanted to know all about my injury, and was I gonna seek “compensation?”
I kind of hemmed and hawed about it which made her even more enthusiastic in the suggestion that “You gotta get yourself compensated for your pain and suffering, now! I mean it’s not like the league ain’t got it, y’know.”
I just smiled and nodded.
When she asked me which hospital I was going to, I replied, “St. Mary’s.”
“Oh, you live over by there?” she asked.
“Oh, no, I live in Nashville,” I explained. “We came here on the bus.”
“Wha? NO! You’re a Nashville fan?” she demanded. “Well then…nevermind, I guess,” her voice trailing as she snuffed her cigarette butt in a nearby concrete ashtray and walked back toward the employee entrance.
Can you say, ‘referral fee’ boys and girls? I knew ya could.
The Saints of St. Mary’s
Finally, nearly three hours since the accident occurred at around 6:45pm, my taxi appeared and drove me to St. Mary’s.
For all the dismay expressed by those on our trip toward their mistreatment at the hands of Blues fans Saturday night, I have to say, the long wait notwithstanding, I really have nothing but praise to heap upon the Scottrade Center first aid personnel and the SSM St. Mary’s Hospital staff at that cared for my injury. They were all great, efficient, courteous, and fun to be around.
When I arrived at the St. Mary’s ER lobby, I checked in (the attendant said, “Oh,YOU’RE the guy who got hit…,” so they knew I was coming). I waited a grand total of five minutes before an orderly came by to confirm my name and circumstances and told me that the nurse practitioner (N.P.) would be repairing my laceration; she would be with me momentarily. He wasn’t kidding. Apparently the N.P.’s shift was ending at 10:00pm, and it was now 9:45. Within another minute or two, the N.P. came into the lobby and introduced herself. She took a quick look at my cut and explained that she’d be doing the repair but that time constraints were an issue because not only did I have to be stitched up, but that they also needed to take a CAT scan of my cheek to make sure there were no fractures, although I felt absolutely no radiating pain in the area.
The Imaging attendant was also going home at 10:00, so it was kind of a race to determine who could get their work on me done first. The orderly soon reappeared and led me to an area in which my vitals where taken. Then, before I knew it, I was in a side suite with a surgical peek-a-boo cloth over my face, as the N.P. warned that the Lidocaine needle she’d be poking me with would likely sting. She was right. That would be far and away the most painful part of this entire journey (and still is to date) — including the moment of impact by the puck intself.
The Lido did its job, as when she began to suture me up, I couldn’t feel a thing.
But perhaps the funniest part of that sequence occurred a few moments earlier when another doctor, whom I’m assuming was the attending that night — although all he did was fill out the paperwork and ask me about my medications — came in. I never actually saw him because he come in until after the cloth was placed over my face.
Anyway, he started asking me about any medications I take on a regular basis; I answered, “Just cholesterol medicine.” “Do you know that kind?” he inquired.
I replied, “I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t. I know it’s a generic, but I can’t recall what it’s called right off the top of my head. But I know how we can find out.” I blindly reached into my left pants pocket for my cell phone, and just as blindly held it to where I thought my mouth is and said, “Home” to activate the voice-select option for my home phone number. I then held it up to where I thought the N.P. could see it and asked, “Does the display say ‘Home?’”
“Yes it does,” she replied, as I returned the phone to my right ear and waited for Michelle to answer. When she did, I asked her to go check my prescription bottle for the name of my cholesterol meds, which she did without question. However, when I asked her for the dosage info, she got suspicious.
“And …why would you need to know that?” she asked.
“Oh…because I’m in the hospital and the doctor needs to know…?” I replied meekly.
“NO YOU’RE NOT!” she insisted. “Yeah, I’m afraid so,” I acknowledged.
I then ran through the cursory details of how I got hit, how long I had to wait for a cab, and how at last glimpse, the Preds-Blues score was tied 1-1, although by then the game must have been in the third period. I told her I’d be fine and not to worry. At that point the N.P. apologetically hinted that she needed me to cut the phone call short so that she could get started stitching me up. I told Michelle I had to go. She made me promise to call her the next day.
Because my face was covered, I couldn’t see how many people were in the room, but it was directly adjacent to a nurse’s station, so I’m thinking that there were at least 2-3 folks including the doctor who was asking me the questions and the N.P. doing the repair, with perhaps one or two more hovering around, outside the door. all I know is whenever someone said something funny, there were a lot of laughs.
At this point little if anything had been said about the fact that I was a Predators fan, but in the course of the continuous conversation we engaged in throughout the process, I made some mention of it right at the time the N.P. began suturing me up.
Somebody in the room said something like, “Ohhh, OKAY then!” and the N.P. chirped, “Yeah, I’m gonna take REAL good care of YOU!” to the laughter of everyone, including me. I responded, asking if I was gonna end up with a Bluenote tattooed on my eyelid or something. We all had fun with it. We talked hockey; about the rivalry through the years between Nashville and St. Louis and the circumstances involving the Preds coming into the league as an expansion team in 1998.
After the N.P.’s work was done I was whisked away via gurney to the imaging room for a head CT scan; an experience eerily reminiscent of the the only other time I’d had a CAT scan done. The process took about ten minutes. I was then wheeled back to my room and told I’d have to wait for the results in about 30 minutes. The nurse asked if she could do anything for me; I asked if I could possibly watch the hockey game on the TeeVee there in the room. She flipped it on. It was a little more than midway through Period Three and the Preds were up 2-1.
I was careful to curb my enthusiasm.
However less than two minutes into watching, ex-Predators Captain, Jason Arnott tied the game on a rebound in front of the net. It was 2-2, yet I was hopeful. About a minute later, I was jubilant. Kevin Klein scored a rare, clutch goal off an accidental screen of Blues goalie Halac by one of his own players, and again Nashville was on top.
I was thinking, “If this holds up, this evening could turn out pretty darned awesome, all things considered.”
It would be — for me, anyway.
Five and-a-half minutes later, David Legwand put the game in the fridge with another of his patented empty net goals. I smiled and snuck in a covert fist-pump when no one was looking.
After spending 15 minutes with the mobile check-in attendant who collected my insurance info, filled out the accident report, and gave me a claims packet to send to the NHL for reimbursement to my insurance, word came that my CT scan was clear, and that I was ready to go.
I called the security guy from the Blues to see if there was any way I could get another voucher for the return cab ride back to my hotel. He said that if I could come back to the security station at Scottrade, he’d have one waiting for me to pick up.
This time when I called for the cab, I only had to wait about ten minutes; just enough time to watch Fox Sports Midwest Blues color man, Darren Pang make his apologist dissertation on why the home team couldn’t claim the opening night victory; stating that the Blues were the better team for most of the night.
Whatevs. He could have saved a buttload of airtime and summed up his remarks in two words — oh, make it three: Pekka FREAKING Rinne. Two games, two wins, two superhuman goaltending performances. This will be Pekka’s year for the Vezina, folks. Book it.
The ride back from the hospital was enjoyable too. I had a great young cabbie who told me all about the revitalization of the St. Louis downtown area; how when he was a teenager downtown was a ghost town. But now with all the new condos and renewal projects, such as the rebuilding of Bush Stadium and St. Louis is hopping. We stopped off at Scottrade for the cap fare voucher, finally made through the thick Saturday night traffic, and I was back at the hotel; I felt exhilarated. I thought about how I came oh so close to not only losing my vision in one eye, but I just as easily could have come away with a concussion or a skull fracture had I NOT raised my head at the moment the puck arrived.
There’s a special rush you feel when you dodge a bullet. It’s not the kind that makes you want to repeat the experience, but rather, one that makes you just feel awesome to be alive. That’s how I felt at the end of Saturday night.
Then I actually started to feel sorta lucky.
Back at the hotel, I was anxious to see everyone’s reaction to the Preds’ big comeback win, so I jumped on Twitter to see the comments of the 303ers who were there at the game. What I discovered wasn’t the level of excitement I expected.
There were reports of extreme verbal abuse; beer dousing, foreign objects being hurled from the stands; all levels of derision directed at anyone wearing a Nashville Predators jersey.
Really, St. Louis? Are you serious?
While I was being treated so well by the Scottrade Center staff and the doctors and attendants at St. Mary’s hospital, my comrades were literally being run out of town?
I felt like I got off easy by comparison.
Unfortunately, there’s no moral to this story; no climax; no happy ending. It was what it was. While I certainly appreciated my treatment by my various hosts, I still bristle with contempt for the “good people of St. Louis” for their utter disrespect of my fellows.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Getting his comepuckance
To end on a more positive note, the puck that struck me was collected by Codey Holland’s wife, Brooke and presented to me late Saturday night. I’ll have that puck in hand tonight at the Predators annual Meet The Team Party, where I intend to get it signed by a certain Mister Kostitsyn, but not before giving him an extra hard time about the incident.
Thanks to the guys at Section303.com, especially the trip’s primary organizer, Patten Fuqua. You all did a splendid job.
And special thanks, once again to Seth Lake, for so graciously being there to look after me in and around the time of the accident. I owe ya one, man.
I get my stitches out on Friday.
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