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History repeated itself last night in the very same city where one of the most feared injuries in hockey happened.
With 10:05 left in the third period of the Florida Panthers' 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena, everyone watching saw Panthers forward Olli Jokinen check his counterpart Clarke MacArthur into the boards. A routine occurance, right? Not even close. As Jokinen fell to the ice off the collision, his right leg kicked upwards and struck teammate Richard Zednik behind him in the neck.
As a result, the 32-year-old Zednik suffered a laceration of the internal carotid artery and was immediately rushed off the ice by Panthers assistant athletic trainer Dave Zenobi and Zednik's teammate Jassen Cullimore. If you missed the game on FSN Florida, you can hear the absolute horror in the voices of Panthers announcers Steve Goldstein and Denis Potvin when it happened, as shown on WPLG-TV's web site. Zenobi had applied constant pressure on the neck with a towel to minimize the bleeding. After getting initial medical attention from doctors in the Panthers' locker room, WIVB-TV's Jericka Duncan reported that Zednik was taken to Buffalo General Hospital where he underwent successful emergency surgery to close the laceration. WGRZ-TV's Thea Tio stated last night that the operation took two hours to complete.
Had Zednik not had this done as quickly as humanly possible, he would've lost so much blood that his life would've been lost. When such a major artery is severed in an area where it is one of the highest blood pressure points of the body, blood escapes at a high rate and vital body functions are threatened with excessive blood loss.
The crowd at HSBC Arena was stunned at the turn of events and the game was delayed about 15 minutes before the public address announcer provided an update that Zednik was in stable condition. Only after that point, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell and both teams decided to finish the game. This is despite Jokinen stating to WFOR-TV reporter Sharrie Williams and other members of the media afterwards that hockey was secondary in the minds of the players and coaching staff.
"I don't think anyone on our team was thinking hockey out there after an injury like that," Jokinen said.
Jokinen was even supportive of not playing the rest of the game as noted by WSVN-TV sportscaster Mike DiPasquale in his report.
Zednik's injury was only a chilling reminder for hockey fans of what occurred at Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo on March 22, 1989. Sabres goaltender Clint Malarchuk was also accidentally slashed in the neck by the skate of St. Louis Blues forward Steve Tuttle as a result of a collision. Back then, television cameras captured the horrifying scene of that night when you can see Malarchuk bleeding profusely and leaving a pool of blood on the ice. Thankfully, Malarchuk fully recovered from his life-threatening injury.
"The worst that went through my mind is, 'Somebody better get him help, or else...' I don't even want to say it," Zednik's teammate Stephen Weiss told Buffalo News Sabres beat writer John Vogl. "Just his face coming off was something you don't want to see. I don't know how to explain it, but it was a scary look. It looked like he was very scared."
Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun had a close view from the team bench of Zednik being led to their locker room since he did not play in last night's game.
"I walked in and saw him on the stretcher," Vokoun said to Miami Herald sports writer George Richards. "I was very concerned when he came off. He was obviously very scared. He was conscious, I guess, that's what the trainer said. His eyes were closed, but he was moving and moaning."
The Florida Panthers issued an update this afternoon stating Zednik remains in stable condition at Buffalo General Hospital and will remain in the intensive care unit while being regularly evaluated. Team owner Alan Cohen had Jessica Zednik flown in on a charter flight so she could be at her husband's side. Cohen's wife Karen accompanied her on the trip while assistant general manager Randy Sexton remained behind in Buffalo. Support for Zednik has been pouring in from countless fans and those around the NHL family since last night's incident.
"The entire Panthers organization wish to extend their sincere gratitude and appreciation to the medical staff at Buffalo General Hospital, the Buffalo Sabres organization, the HSBC Arena staff and to the Panthers and Sabres fans who have expressed their thoughts and concerns," Sexton said.