The Norwood High School player who suffered a severe concussion after crashing headfirst into the boards in a game last night is alert and talking and appears likely to make a full recovery, the school's athletic director said today.
"He's in good spirits," said Brian McDonough. "The CAT scan looked good."
The injury to senior defenseman Chris O'Brien marked the second time a Norwood player had been hospitalized in as many games. Teammate Matt Brown underwent a seven-hour surgery yesterday to stabilize his neck after fracturing two vertebrae on the ice last weekend.
The surgery went well, McDonough said, but Brown faces a long recovery and could be paralyzed. Brown, a sophomore, hit his head hard against the glass. He remains in intensive care and in serious condition, said a spokeswoman for Children's Hospital Boston, where both players are being treated.
On a website set up by the hospital, called "WeLoveNumber3," the family wrote that Brown "came through with flying colors."
"This now allows Matt to start his long rehabilitation journey," the family wrote. "He will continue to need your prayers and support over the weeks and months ahead."
By noon today, well-wishers had left nearly 600 messages. Most were from friends and relatives, but a good number were from hockey families across the state and beyond.
"Prayers are being said for you in the Minnesota hockey community," wrote Carol Langer, "hockey mom of 3." "Stay strong and keep your faith."
O'Brien's injury stunned a community already in shock over Brown's condition. At last night's game, dedicated to Brown, Norwood players wore Brown's number 3 in tribute, and hundreds of fans did the same. Milton High School held a raffle to raise money for Brown's medical costs.
Before the game, players on both teams shook hands, and a moment of silence was observed. When O'Brien fell to the ice near the end of the second period, lying unconscious for several minutes, a somber hush fell over the crowd. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher, and the game was postponed.
On Monday, a pre-dawn church service in Norwood drew more than 800 people to pray for Brown and his family.
McDonough said the team, which met for breakfast this morning, is struggling to cope after seeing two teammates fall victim to serious injuries.
"They are a little numb," he said. "How do you deal with something like this? There's an inherent risk in any sport, but to have two back-to-back like this, it's just a terrible thing."
The school has postponed Saturday's game, he said. Teammates are leaning on each other for emotional support, he said.
"We're working through it," he said. "It's a very tight-knit group of players, and they'll rely on each other."
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