Shane Scheeler knew he had taken a hit along the boards. The pain in his left wrist felt like a bad "stinger," a burning sensation that usually lasts a few moments. He thought he had been punched.
It wasn't until the St. Joe's senior defenseman looked down and saw the blood squirting out of his lower arm that he realized the injury was more severe.
An opposing player's skate blade had sliced through the skin, tendons and an artery of Scheeler's wrist in what can best be described as a freak accident during the Marauders' second game of the season, on Dec. 2 against Long Island school St. Anthony's at a downstate tournament.
"I was carrying the puck up and I dumped it in the zone," Scheeler said. "The kid came to hit me I just tried to go around him.
"I didn't really step into him too much and his skate when he fell came up and hit me across the wrist when I was still standing."
The play could potentially be the final one of Scheeler's scholastic career. However, the Marauders' alternate captain remains hopeful that he'll be able to return to the lineup for the playoffs next month as St. Joe's tries to claim a third straight New York State Catholic High Schools Athletic Association championship.
Scheeler, a member of last year's championship team, has taken significant steps recently by returning to practice and skating in drills with his teammates. He's also getting in some extra skating working out with one of St. Joe's club teams as well as working out on the backyard rink at his home.
He can't shoot or stick handle as his surgically repaired tendons continue to heal. He wears a special splint on his left arm that allows him to put on his glove, which is still blood-stained on the inside.
"It feels good to be out there," Scheeler said. "You don't want to be sitting at home and not really doing anything."
Did the injury have the potential to be life-threatening?
It did not get to that point because of the swift reaction of Scheeler and the action of the St. Joe's trainer, Pete McCabe. Scheeler put his hand over the gash. McCabe then raced out to him with towel in hand and immediately covered the wound.
"It wasn't bleeding as bad as it could have if a couple arteries were cut," Scheeler said. "Since the one artery was cut your body will constrict the one to stop the bleeding – so it stopped rather quickly."
The skate blade just missed slicing a second artery by millimeters, according to his mother Brenda, who also credited McCabe with getting the bleeding under control quickly. She initially thought Shane suffered a broken arm until she saw McCabe's actions.
"Right away then I knew it was bad," said Brenda Scheeler, who also saw the reaction of her son's teammates on the bench. "You're worried, but you know they're in good hands. There was also an EMT there. … It could've been bad if there wasn't a trainer or an EMT. We're very fortunate St. Joe's sends us with a trainer."
McCabe declined comment regarding Scheeler's injury, but others didn't.
"Our trainer was a God-send," Marauders coach Rich Crozier said. "He was incredibly calm. Pete did just a wonderful job, took the lead right from the beginning. What I remember from being in the moment, hockey became secondary very quick."
Crozier went to the locker room with Scheeler and McCabe as the game continued at the Ice Hutch in Mount Vernon, located about 23 miles north of New York City. The group was joined by concerned parents ready to assist with whatever the Scheelers needed. Brenda said that included Mike and Dennis Gilbert talking to Shane and asking him questions as they helped get his skates off and sneakers on so that the ambulance could take him to the nearest hospital, where he received X-rays, and antibiotics through an intravenous tube.
"Everybody worked together to get him out there quickly," Brenda Scheeler said. "The trainer was definitely right on it and kept it from being a real tragic situation. Without having a trainer there that could've been really dicey."
Scheeler was seen by doctors at two hospitals – Montefiore New Rochelle and Children's Hospital at Montefiore, in the Bronx – and discharged the same day of the injury. After being informed in the emergency room at the first hospital (New Rochelle) that Scheeler needed to see a hand specialist, McCabe quickly coordinated treatment, including surgery, back in Western New York.
Scheeler thought he may have dodged a long-term ailment based on the initial diagnoses (no artery damage and maybe a one cut tendon). However, he learned otherwise once he returned home.
On Dec. 4, two days after the injury, Scheeler underwent a 3-1/2-hour procedure at Buffalo Surgery Center that was necessary to repair a severed artery, severed Median Nerve, 12 severed flexor tendons and one partially cut flexor tendon.
After the injury, Scheeler had feeling only in his pinky and outside of his ring finger.
Scheeler is still regaining feeling in parts of his left hand, which he said is normal. He can also partially flex all of his fingers and thumb. He isn't allowed to drive, which means he's relying on his twin brother, Bryce, to transport him to rehab and to hockey practices.
"The Scheeler family would like to thank our family, friends, coaches, teammates and the entire St. Joe’s Community for their continued thoughts, prayers and well wishes for Shane on a full recovery," Brenda Scheeler said.
Since Scheeler does not have complete feeling from the thumb to middle finger and part of his palm, it makes for challenging moments in rehab.
One of his exercises consists of picking up paper clips and coins off a flat table and putting them in a cup/can. He also kneads clay and squeezes his stick in an attempt to stretch and strengthen the tendons.
"Amazingly I have never seen him once frustrated or mad," Brenda Scheeler said. "He's just, 'Mom, things are just the way they are and you move on.' He's just, 'OK, what do I need to do?'"
While Scheeler, one of the team's top defensemen at the time of the injury, is limited in practice, St. Joe's is thrilled he's around. It's a morale booster for everyone.
"We're like a family," Crozier said. "When he went through that, this entire team rallied behind him. … Just to be back on the ice with his brothers was very uplifting. … I care about these kids like they're my own. It's the most serious injury we've ever had in my time here.
"I'm very, very convinced that if it's doable, and the doctor's says it's all right, if any kid can overcome this injury and come back and contribute and help us defend back-to-back state championships it's Shane Scheeler."