Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

February 10, 2008

TIM SCHMITT: Zednik injury puts games into perspective

BUFFALO — Being a modern-day gladiator must be maddening. Between the lines, or boards, the ingrained mentality is to unequivocally destroy the enemy. We cheer when our guy hits their guy as hard as he possibly can. Think Brian Campbell laying out R.J. Umberger.

But there are those rare moments when real life supersedes the sports fanaticism we’ve come to embrace.

One of those moments took place at HSBC Arena on Sunday.

When Richard Zednik fled a spot deep in the Buffalo zone midway through the third period, the primordial instincts of nearly 19,000 onlookers knocked rivalry and competitiveness to the curb. Zednik wasn’t racing our guys when he hustled back to the bench, he was racing to stay alive.

That sobering thought makes the chase for the eighth and final playoff spot seem insignificant.

Buffalo did hang on to beat Florida by a 5-3 score on Sunday, producing a result few will ever remember. This will be known as the game where Zednik’s neck was severely sliced, just like March 22, 1989 is still known as the night Clint Malarchuk nearly lost his life.

When a stream of blood poured from Zednik’s neck, players and coaches from both sides instantly realized the gravity of the situation.

“He had had his hand on his neck and he just looked pale,” Florida teammate Steve Montador said. “He was obviously standing and to a degree coherent and whatnot, but he didn’t look as focused as (he would normally). That was when guys went and grabbed him and took him off the ice.

“It’s a pretty brave guy just to realize what’s going on, grab your neck and get off the ice. A credit to Rich.”

Jaroslav Spacek has seen something like this before, although not at the same level. In 2002, Spacek saw Robert Schnabel fall on a skate in Nashville, slicing the wrist of the defenseman. He said he was shaken on that night, and Schnabel was expected immediately to make a full recovery. Those in attendance at HSBC on Sunday didn’t share that optimism.

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