EDINA, Minn. (WCCO) — As the Holy Family high school hockey players skate their summer training, junior defenseman Michael Spinner can only look on. He is sidelined for the next ten days after a near-fatal on ice accident.
“This is something that nobody should have to ever go through,” Michael said.
The 16-year-old Prior Lake resident is lucky to be alive after the accident during Wednesday’s practice. While Spinner was going for the puck he was caught by another player’s skate blade, which was razor-sharp and severed his jugular vein.
Michael skated to the bench, not immediately knowing just how seriously he was hurt.
“I kind of felt it, and there was just a silence in the rink. I just kind of knew it right at that point,” Spinner recalls thinking.
Coaches Noel Rahn and Darrell Lindeman knew it too, and immediately jumped into action. Using a hockey sock they applied direct pressure to slow the bleeding until paramedics arrived.
“Our main goal was to call 911 and to get that bleeding contained as much as possible. It was coming out at a pretty rapid pace,” coach Rahn said.
Michael was rushed to the level one pediatric trauma center at Hennepin County Medical Center and into surgery.
His father Bob got the news while on business down in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Michael’s mother Senta drove to the hospital where she was met at the door by a hospital chaplain.
Shocked at the severity of her son’s condition, Senta Spinner recalled, “A chaplain, yeah.”
Bob said when he got the call from another player’s parent he thought the injury was only minor. His demeanor quickly changed when his wife called Bob from the hospital with more dire news.
“There was a possibility that my son may die. He had lost a very large amount of blood,” Bob said.
“I knew at that point it was serious,” Senta remembers.
The nearly two hour surgery closed the wound to the jugular vein and saved Michael’s life. From his hospital bed later that day the hockey player recalled how his surgical team had high praise for the coaches who administered first aid.
“They said that if the coach did not apply the immediate pressure that he did, I could have bled out in under two minutes,” Michael said.
On Friday morning at Braemar arena, came an emotional yet joyous reunion. There were tears and hugs between Michael’s parents and his coaches, followed by moments of humor over what Michael said while awaiting the paramedics.
“You said, ‘How bad is it?’ I said, ‘Well, it could be worse, it could’ve been on your face,'” Darrell Lindeman said.
While this kind of hockey accident is rare it is also highly preventable. Several teams, including Moorhead and Stillwater high schools, require all players to wear neck protection collars.
The collars are also mandatory in some youth hockey programs including all players in Minnesota Amateur Hockey Association District Six.
Still, neck protection is not a requirement of the Minnesota State High School League or statewide youth hockey programs. Coach Rahn vows to push for a change in the rules and says his players will all wear the protection this year.
“There is equipment out there available to prevent it. Just something to stop that contact between the skin and the blade,” Senta Spinner said.
Michael will be cleared for play in ten days, soon enough to participate in the USA U-16 National Development Camp in Amherst, N.Y. next week.
He knows he’s extremely fortunate and blessed.
“I’m definitely wearing a neck guard out there,” he said.