Injured Rats stop by practice
River Rats defenseman Casey Borer and Jonathan Paiement, who spent Thursday night at the Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Mass. following the team bus crash that morning, joined their teammates tonight at RPI's Houston Field House.
Paiement suffered a severe cut on his left thumb, scratches and bruises on his face and a bloodied left eye, caused by shattered glass. Borer is wearing a plastic brace to protect his neck, broken in the crash. His season is over, though doctors told him he should be able to play again.
"It was nice to see them show up," head coach Jeff Daniels said. "One, for them to kind of get out and see everybody, and at the same time, for the guys to see them and see they'll be OK."
Despite his condition, Borer's sense of humor wasn't damaged. "I'll have to talk to the coach about relaxing the dress code a bit. Maybe some jeans and a Bob Marley t-shirt or something."
Rats play-by-play man Owen Newkirk said he wanted to get a third headset and have Borer join him and color analyst John Hennessy on the radio broadcasts. "They may have to get one of those bleep buttons for me," Borer said.
Unable to shave due to his brace, Borer said, "I've got a pretty mean playoff beard going on with this thing. Hopefully the boys can go on a nice run here and get into the playoffs. That would be a real Cinderella story."
It was the first time the two players spoke about their ordeal since the accident. Here is what they had to say:
"My whole body is hurt. I'm bruised everywhere. I have a big cut on my thumb. A piece of galss got in, and in my left eye, a piece of glass. That's why I have to stay at the hospital. They had to take out the glass and they had to check and see if everything is all right with me.
"The first day, I couldn't see because there was so much swelling. I couldn't see from my left eye. Now, it's getting better and better. I can almost see.
"I'm going to know more tomorrow. I have to come to the rink tomorrow and the doctors will be there and they're going to tell me more. They're going to check more what I have. It will probably be like a week or two I hope that I can come back.
"I was sitting and talking. It happened so fast, you couldn't react. We got so much lucky because we rolled over. I was on the other sid.e I flip over and fly into the glass. From there, everybody was just trying to get out of the bus and helped each other to escape because the trucks were coming, too. It was dangerous.
"I saw (the bus) on TV. Everybody knows we got lucky there. I can't really describe what happened. I just don't think about it.
"Everybody's more together now after the experience. It was really intense for the guys. I'd love to be there and skate with them but I have to take a week or so and then train harder to get back in shape."
“I feel good. I’m just glad to be walking and moving my limbs, to be honest with you. I’m glad no one died. It is what it is, I guess. It could have been worse. It was great to come down to the rink today and see everyone and just be able to share that with the guys. It was kind of a tough couple of days. I’m just lucky and thankful to be alive.
“That’s absolutely unbelievable that (there are fans) here. It’s coming from all angles, by telephone, the Internet, e-mail. The outpouring; it’s incredible how many people actually do follow us and care about us. It shows there are a lot of good people out there, especially in this sport.
“This is one of those things where obviously it’s a tragedy. As far as how it happened, I guess it’s not a tragedy in that no one died, but just the fact that so many people come out here on a Saturday night to watch this. It’s just a bunch of guys doing what they love. We had a misfortune. Guys are out here more to relieve the stress and kind of get their minds off it.
“Whether they got seriously injured or not, this is one of those things definitely is going to be running through people’s minds for a long time and probably something people will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
“I was sleeping on the right side of the bus. I took Timmy Conboy’s seat. (Conboy was recalled to the Carolina Hurricanes). I usually sit in the middle of the bus. (Noah) Babin took my seat, and I was sitting in Timmy’s. I’m tired, obviously, so I went to bed, and I woke up mid-air.
“I hit my head on the far storage bin up top, as the bus tipped. I rapped my head. I’ve got a bunch of marks on my head over here (on his right temple), but I didn’t really expect that I had a broken neck. I woke up hitting my head, and I was like is-this-a-bad-dream type of deal.
“I landed on Petro (Jakub Petruzalek). I looked down, and you could see the snow underneath the window, and Dewey’s (Dwight Helminen’s) leg was bleeding, his foot. I said, `Holy cow, this is the real deal.’ I knew my head hurt, and my neck.
“I helped Dewey up and helped him get out of the bus. We climbed through the exit. I was like, 'My stuff is right there, maybe I should grab it,' but I guess half our bus was still on the road. From the front I hear, `Get off the bus! Get off the bus!’ I thought maybe it was on fire or whatever.
“I just got off the bus and got outside, and I couldn’t hold my head up by myself. I put my coat down in the snow and got down on all fours and kind of rested my head in my coat. Then I got up and sat on the guardrail and just waited for help to arrive.
“The EMTs were coming up to me like, `What’s wrong? What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘My neck hurts. It’s probably just whiplash. Go deal with the guys that are bleeding.’ Floody (Mark Flood) was helping me. He was holding my head up. I was leaning up against him.
“Finally, once enough help came, a fireman came and helped me. He was holding my head up. I was kind of getting light-headed. By the end of it I just wanted to get into the ambulance. I was freezing cold.
“We got to the hospital and I think they ran everyone through a CAT scan. I was sitting in the room with Helminen and (Ryan) Weston, and were kind of like, ‘Wow! Did that really just happen? Let’s get some breakfast and get out of here.’ The next thing you know the doc came in, and he was like, ‘You have a broken neck. We’ve got to get you into trauma.’
“I had people rush me down there. There were putting pads on my body and my head. I went in there and they cut all my clothes off and instantly started running tests like crazy. I had to call my parents It ended up all the tests checked out. I could move my hands and all my limbs, so I was really excited about that. I was pretty scared once they told me I had a fracture of whatever.
“The staff there, I mean, that hospital should get Hospital of the Year. The way they handled us, the guys that had to stay, was first class all the way. I don’t know how I would have handled 30 people coming in, but they did an unbelievable job. It made the experience as good as possible for the situation. I know every guy would say the same thing. That place was top-notch.
“It was one of those things, you sit back and look at it, it’s not so bad. Everyone’s alive. It could have been worse.
“My first thought was, ‘Oh, my God, I wonder if I’m going to be able to play hockey again.’ I was laying there thinking about it, and was like, right now, that’s not a concern of mine. I’ll ask them that later. They said, `I don’t see this affecting your career.’ I just kind of smiled. That’s cool, but I was just happy to be able to walk. Every indication says I should be good to go, barring that everything heals properly. Who knows what the future holds for me right now. That’s something I’m not too concerned about.
A knee injury cost Borer the stretch run and the playoffs as a rookie last season -- “Two years in a row, getting your season cut short like that, especially now. We’re starting to play well and the guys are starting to come together. We made a little run, had a little setback, winning again. We were having a lot of fun at this point in the year, as we were last year.
“When you think about the magnitude of what went on, hockey’s got to come second there as far as your life being in that kind of situation. Obviously, it’s disappointing, as far as I’m concerned, I want to heal and be able to do other things in life, like put my socks on. That’s more important to me right now. Everything that I’ve heard is positive. I guess there’s an outside chance that it won’t work out, but if it doesn’t, I’m just happy to be walking.”
“The guys are so good at just supporting. Gilly (Trevor Gillies) came over last night, and said, ‘What do you need? Do you need some ice cream? I could go to the store.’ Little things like that just go a long way.
“The fans here tonight, I got a teddy bear and some cards. Care packages from the apartment. Neighbors are coming by with brownies. Not even like touching lives by playing hockey but just how many people respond to a situation like that. It’s a tribute to the country we live in.
“You see all these tragedies that happen, and all you hear about is how many good people come out of the woodwork. We definitely really experienced that first hand, the people in this area responding to such a situation in such a positive way. `Anything we can do to help,’ that’s all they say. It’s encouraging and it makes you upbeat and makes you feel cared about. It’s really impressive in my eyes.”