ST. LOUIS - It's Oct. 15, second period of a game between the St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers. The Blues are applying heavy pressure to the Rangers defense, and in a desperate attempt to stop the onslaught, defenseman Ryan McDonagh clears the puck over the glass.
McDonagh got a two-minute penalty for delay of game, but even worse, his shot sailed into Section 102 and struck nine-year-old Alex Vaughn just under the nose.
"I was next to him but I wasn't much help," said Greg Vaughn, Alex's dad. "You know it's something that can happen, but you don't really believe that it's going to. The game moves so quick, so as soon as it cleared the glass it was there. It was too late. You couldn't really react. It was scary."
Alex was transported to St. Louis Children's Hospital, where doctors discovered a one-inch laceration under his nose. Alex needed 16 stitches to close the cut and four more inside his mouth. He is scheduled to meet with a plastic surgeon on Oct. 28.
But Alex is a hockey player, so he's tough. And he wasn't going to miss the next opportunity to see a Blues game, which was Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames.
The game wasn't overly memorable - the Blues suffered their first home loss of the season Tuesday - but what happened after the game is something Alex will likely never forget.
Alex was given a private tour of the Blues locker room by Vladimir Tarasenko.
First up was the equipment room, then the medical room. "Here's where we get our stitches," Tarasenko said. Then it was the stick room, and finally the main locker room, where captain Alex Pietrangelo was wrapping up an interview with the media.
"Did you cry?" Tarasenko asked.
"No," Alex answered.
"If that happened to me when I was nine, I would have cried," Tarasenko said.
Alex left Scottrade Center with a game-used stick from Tarasenko, a puck signed by Pietrangelo as well as a team-signed stick with a "get well soon" message from McDonagh and the Rangers. He also met Robert Bortuzzo, Barret Jackman and Darren Pang after the game.
"We very much appreciate all the Blues have done for Alex and my family," Greg said. "It just shows what a classy organization it is. From the phone calls throughout the week to check on his status, to putting something like this together where he gets a new memory that erases the bad memory of getting hit with the puck.
"We're very lucky," Greg added. "Alex still has a smile, he has his teeth and it didn't hit him in the eye or anything. And he's got a great story to tell. We're very fortunate."