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Pavelec back at practice, condition 'nothing serious'

by John Manasso
DULUTH, Ga. -- Speaking to a throng of reporters for the first time since he fainted during the Atlanta Thrashers' season opener on Oct. 8 and had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher, goalie Ondrej Pavelec talked about how excited he was to practice with the team again and how his medical condition was "nothing serious."
"They said (there are) so many reasons why it happens and they couldn't find it," he said. "But they said a lot of times it never happen again. Hopefully, it will never happen again."
Pavelec was taken to the hospital for observation and stayed two nights while undergoing testing. Upon his release, he returned the next day. His tests included a four-hour MRI and testing on his brain and heart but everything came up negative.
"I think they did all tests they can do," he said. "For three days it was all tests. Three days. So I'm sick of it a little bit. I don't want to see the hospital for a while."
Pavelec has no recollection of what happened to him that night after the playing of the national anthem. He played the game's first 2:25, then fainted when the puck was at the other end of the rink, hitting his head on the ice and suffering a concussion -- his fourth while still only age 23. He said doctors checked his family history but that neither he nor his family members have a memory of fainting spells.
He said the scariest moment for him was waking up in the ambulance without any explanation as to how he got there. He also could not feel his legs.
"I don't know what's going on, what happened," he said. "Nobody tell me. And I couldn't feel my legs, so I was a little bit worried about what happened. But when I get to hospital I start to feel my legs. Doctors start to tell me what happened. After those tests in the hospital, right away, they tell me I'm going to be fine, so I was very happy."
One of the first things he did was call his parents. He said the game was not shown live in his native Czech, but the images of his being treated on the stretcher were without an explanation to say that he was OK. Also, his girlfriend had left the day before and he was glad that she was not present to witness the incident.
"Once I woke up, I could call, so I called them right away and told them I was OK, so it's good," he said. "It was a scary moment because nobody know what's going on."

He said his parents wanted to come visit immediately, but they have plans to visit in about two weeks so he said he would see them then.
For the first few days, he said he felt fine except for headaches caused by the concussion and spent his time between tests watching the Thrashers as they played four games on the road.
Despite discussing such a serious subject, Pavelec got a few laughs when he talked about his concussion history. One, he remembered, he got when he was playing soccer when he was 10 or 11 and hit his head on the ground. His most recent one came when he was playing for his national team against Russia in the Under-17 World Cup. "We got in a little fight with Russian guys," he put it.

Asked if he took his helmet off, Pavelec responded, "No. He did."
In terms of his return to playing, he took a neuro-psych test for his concussion on Tuesday morning. The Thrashers could have the results by as early as Tuesday afternoon but more likely not until Wednesday. Regardless, Pavelec will have to play his way into shape before the team takes him off injured reserve, which might not take that long.
Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said he "wouldn't hazard a guess" as to when Pavelec might play.
"When they tell me he's really ready to go hard, then we'll work him hard and try to find out where he is," he said. "But after training camp, I think he was in reasonably good shape so I don't think it'll take too long."
Another factor for Pavelec is to get used to his new equipment. Goalies are notoriously picky about their equipment and Pavelec had his chest protector and his pants cut off when he was in the ambulance as doctors and emergency personnel examined him. When he came to, the ruined equipment was one of the first things he noticed, much to his chagrin.
"That's the biggest problem right now," he said. "I've got a new chest protector and new pants. I had (the chest protector) for two years. I got the new one, but like I said, I have my health. Those things are no problems."
Thrashers goalie Chris Mason has his first new chest protector in five years. He talked about what it's like getting used to a new one.
"The biggest thing for most goalies is that feeling of comfort on your upper body because it just feels terrible compared to the old one," he said. "It's stiff. Some guys like that, though. Some guys like that big, bulky chest protector, stuff like that. A lot of guys, when you have the same one for a while it just feels like part of your body."
Pavelec was reunited with the team for the first time on Monday. Mason said teammates went over and high-fived him or hugged him as the goalie fiddled with his new equipment.
"Everybody was glad to see him," Mason said, "It's great for everyone to see him up in the room and smiling around. It's awesome."
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