When Ondrej Pavelec awoke in an ambulance he could not feel his legs and had no memory of playing more than two minutes of the Thrashers’ season-opening game Friday.
The Thrashers goaltender lost consciousness and collapsed to the ice 2:25 into game. He lay motionless as he was attended to by doctors and removed on a stretcher.
“I would like to tell you [what happened],” Pavelec told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an exclusive interview Saturday. “The last thing I remember was the lights going on after the [national] anthem. I don’t remember anything until I woke up in the ambulance and saw the doctor looking at me.”
Pavelec regained consciousness in the ambulance en route to a local hospital. The feeling in his legs returned in the emergency room. He was in stable condition and held for observation Friday after preliminary tests were negative. Pavelec remained in the hospital Saturday night after undergoing a battery of tests during the day. He said his only current symptoms are headaches from a concussion caused when his head hit the ice in the fall.
The 23-year-old said he underwent whole body MRI exams. He will undergo more tests on Sunday but hopes to be released later in the day.
“My heart looks good. My brain looks good. Everything is normal but we still have to find out what it is,” Pavelec said. “You will have to ask the doctors what it is.”
Pavelec does not have a history of health problems. He said he felt “really good” prior to the game.
Once Pavelec was feeling better he phoned his parents back home in the Czech Republic to let them know he was feeling better. The scary incident drew national and world wide attention. It was the lead story on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
From the hospital Friday, Pavelec asked how the Thrashers were faring in their game against Washington – a contest they won 4-2.
“It was scary for them too,” Pavelec said of his teammates.
The Thrashers were informed that Pavelec was stable during the first intermission and played inspired hockey in the upset of the Capitals.
Pavelec has received an outpouring of concern and well wishes from fans around the NHL, including many on ajc.com blogs. Pavelec said he has also received many phone messages and texts from the Czech Republic and from current and former teammates.
“I really appreciate it,” Pavelec said. “I’m really happy and thankful to everybody. Please tell them.”
Pavelec said he did not know when he would be able to return to the team or if he would make the Thrashers’ West Coast road trip that begins in Los Angeles on Tuesday. The team re-called Drew MacIntyre from AHL Chicago to take Pavelec’s place and back up goaltender Chris Mason.
“He’s awake and alert but they have to do more tests,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said Saturday morning. “We have very little knowledge other than he is awake, alert and seems to be doing much, much better.”
One of the text messages Pavelec received came from former Thrasher Pavel Kubina. The defenseman, and fellow countryman, now plays for Tampa Bay, the Thrashers opponent Saturday night. Pavelec was in good enough spirits to respond.
“I told him to take it easy tonight,” Pavelec said.