ATLANTA -- To a man, the Atlanta Thrashers said they did not see what happened to goalie Ondrej Pavelec as he lost consciousness in the first period of their 4-2 season-opening win over Washington at Philips Arena on Friday night.
At the 2:25 mark of the first period, the 23-year-old collapsed to the ice in front of his net while play was stopped at the other end of the ice. The game was stopped for approximately 20 minutes, as team doctors immediately raced onto the ice and emergency medical professionals joined them with a stretcher, attending to Pavelec who was later announced to be alert and awake but they did not have any kind of diagnosis as to what caused Pavelec to lose consciousness.
"I just saw him lay on the ice and I think the whole bench saw him at exactly the same time and everybody was kind of yelling, get the trainers out there," left wing Evander Kane said. "They obviously did a good job getting him off."
The Thrashers released two updates during the game, the first stating that Pavelec had lost consciousness and that he was taken to a local hospital – whose location was deliberately withheld – for further evaluation. The second stated that he was "awake, alert and asking about the score of the game." It added that preliminary tests – without stating what they were for – were "negative" and that Pavelec would be kept overnight for observation. The Thrashers play
Saturday in Tampa Bay.
Late in the third period, the public address announcer announced that the second statement about Pavelec's condition – the first time the 15,596 in attendance were apprised of the player's condition – and a roar came up from the crowd.
After the game, Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay seemed to know little more than what was in the statement.
"I don't know a lot," Ramsay said. "He's alert, he's awake, he's apparently asking about the game – a little bit about how we did. That's all I really know. I don't know that they've finalized anything at this point. He'll be kept for observations and tests and we'll find out more tomorrow."
After the first period, the players received the information in the locker room that Pavelec was awake and alert, which lifted their spirits. Watching Pavelec be attended to, Thrashers defenseman Zach Bogosian said he "almost got sick to my stomach."
"It's scary," he said. "You don't know what to think. He's laying motionless. Obviously, a situation like that a lot of thoughts run through your head and I'm just glad to hear he's awake and it's definitely a good feeling. I almost got sick to my stomach just seeing it. You don't want to see anyone in that situation, especially one of your teammates. It's definitely scary, but I
thought we responded pretty well."
Goalie Chris Mason, who had to enter the game to replace Pavelec, said he had trouble concentrating at first and that his thoughts went out to the 23-year-old's family in the Czech Republic.
"It was awful," he said. "I just imagined like everyone else – his family's across the sea. You just think they're probably following the game and something like that happens and we don't know what's going on, it's probably a helpless feeling. You can't help it.
"It was tough. I had a lot of trouble focusing when I first got in there, thinking about him. We came in and asked after the first period to see how he was doing and braced and they said he's responsive and he's doing OK, so that kind of eases the mind a little bit. But, man, it was -- it's awful. He's your teammate, your friend and I can't imagine what his family back home is
Said Kane, who scored twice in the victory: "I was really shocked and really concerned for him. It was so sudden and so unexpected. I think everybody was. We knew what we had to do and I think everyone was kind of on the same page that we had to win that one for him."
Earlier in the day, Pavelec had talked of his excitement about earning the opening-night start. Last season, Pavelec was 14-18 with a .906 save percentage and 3.29 goals-against average. He has played for Czech in the World Junior tournament and the 2010 World Championships. He also was named to its Olympic team.