Down not out for long
injured Sound Tiger visits team
By MICHAEL FORNABAIO
SHELTON â" Three days in bed were enough for Blaine Down.
He got up and around a little bit Wednesday, and Thursday morning, he
was ready to visit his Bridgeport Sound Tigers teammates.
Four days after suffering three broken vertebrae in a scary collision
Sunday in a game against Hartford, Down walked into The Rinks at
Shelton, wearing a neck brace but in his trademark good spirit.
"To be able to walk as soon as I can, (doctors) are happy to see,"
said Down, 23, who said he feels more discomfort than pain.
"Every doctor I've talked to has had different sayings, to thank
whoever I believe in. Three broken vertebrae, to be up and making
The hit, 2:41 into the second period Sunday, left Down with two
cracks in his C5 vertebra and one crack each in C4 and C6, all in the
lower half of the seven cervical vertebrae in the neck.
"It was just like a slinky," Down said. "It came together and went
back apart. I was lucky nothing shifted, nothing touched the spinal
Down, who had a concussion earlier this season and missed almost a
month with post-concussion symptoms, didn't get knocked out when
Garth Murray's shoulder met his head, a hit that ended his season.
"I remember the whole hit. I wasn't knocked out or anything, surprise
surprise," Down said. "I remember bouncing off (Ryan) Hollweg, and I
didn't even have time to react to Murray; he was right there. After
that, it's a blur."
Down tried to get up, and that's when Sound Tigers goalie Wade
Dubielewicz, just 30 feet away, could tell something was wrong.
He yelled to Down to stay down, and to referee Dave Hansen to blow
the whistle. He was one of the first people to Down, and he could see
Down's eye was already black.
"It was kind of unnerving," the goalie said.
Though Down wasn't in much pain, his left side was numb. Down was
frightened in the moment, and his breathing was problematic. But
quickly, trainer Garrett Timms got across the ice to him,
immobilizing Down's head.
"He did exactly what he's supposed to," Down said
"At that point, I'm just in a panic. I asked Garrett what's going
on," he continued. "Garrett got there and told me 'lay still.' ... I
just laid there. I didn't want to move my leg. I couldn't move my
After 20 minutes of work on the ice, moving Down from onto a board
and onto a stretcher, Down went to the emergency room at Bridgeport
Hospital. Medical workers cut his uniform and his gear off him,
slicing the sweater up the front.
"They grab your right foot (and say), 'Can you feel this?'" Down
said. "They grab your left foot, 'Can you feel this?' And you
say, 'Feel what?'"
Fortunately, all tests came back with good results. Though the neck
brace will stay on for 12-15 weeks, and it'll be at least that long
before he can do much of anything hockey-related, he'll be OK. A
little thing like a shrug of his shoulders was gratifying.
Down's mother and girlfriend, who were listening Sunday to the game's
Webcast, flew in Monday night, when he was released from the
hospital. His father was on the way.
Down will go home to Ontario with them next week. He can't drive with
the neck brace, and he doesn't want to be a distraction with the team
trying to climb back into the playoff race, a struggle that continues
tonight at Worcester.
"It's the first time hockey doesn't come first," Down said. "I've
played with bumps and bruises; you sprain your wrist, you put a cast
on. This is the first time to think about what I'm going to do with
Doctors are optimistic he'll have a chance to continue his hockey
career, though, and his teammates were glad to see him.
"It's awesome," Dubielewicz said. "It's good to see, and that he's
going to probably have a full recovery."
Down stood along the boards Thursday morning watching coach Greg
Cronin put a skeleton crew through their paces, with a bug keeping
half the team off skates. Cronin saw Down and only half-jokingly
asked if he wanted to jump in and practice.
"We're going to miss Downer," Cronin said.
Bridgeport Sound Tigers at Worcester IceCats
DCU Centre, Worcester, Mass.
ON THE AIR
Bridgeport 18-24-1-1; Worcester 27-15-3-2
Worcester leads 2-0.
The IceCats won 3-1 at Bridgeport on Dec. 20.
ABOUT THE SOUND TIGERS
Nine players missed practice Thursday with a stomach virus swamping
the team. LW Justin Papineau (shoulder) practiced, but his return is
questionable. ... The Sound Tigers were shut out Wednesday for the
seventh time this season, matching the franchise high set last
year. ... Bridgeport is 4-1-0 all-time at the DCU (formerly Centrum)
Centre; the first loss was Nov. 27, which was the second game of the
Sound Tigers' current 0-13-1-1 road drought.
ABOUT THE ICECATS
New Haven native C Eric Boguniecki is 5-2-7 in his first 11 games
with Worcester this season. ... RW Peter Sejna had a goal and an
assist Wednesday in a 4-2 win over Springfield; South Windsor native
RW Jon DiSalvatore scored a goal. ... C Blake Evans leads the team at
12-18-30, with F Mike Glumac (12-17-29) and D Dennis Wideman (8-21-
29) right behind.
Saturday at Lowell, 2 p.m.