Clay High coach Frank Butler had never witnessed a player suffer a paralyzing back injury in 25 years of coaching.
Not until Clay freshman Kyle Cannon was injured during a hockey tournament on Sunday in Kettering, Ohio. The Eagles' 5-foot-7, 140-pound 14-year-old was hit from behind and into the boards by an opposing player during the second period of a game with Lexington (Ky.) Catholic High.
Cannon, who lost all feeling from the neck down and was unable to move, remains in the intensive care unit in Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton.
On the same weekend, Start High's Dustin Wells, an 18-year-old senior, was also seriously injured during a hockey game against Northview. He was taken to Toledo Hospital after losing all feeling in his right leg and was later diagnosed with having a swollen spinal cord.
"To have two on the same weekend that was totally bizarre," Butler said, referring to Cannon's and Butler's injuries.
Such injuries at the high school level of competition are considered rare, according to the National Federation of High Schools and the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury (NCCSI) Research.
The most recent studies done by the NCCSI on such injuries reveal that during the 2006-07 high school fall season, 34 catastrophic injuries in fall sports were reported. Catastrophic injuries are recognized as fatal or non-fatal (permanent disability) or serious (neck or head injuries with full recovery). A total of 32 of the 34 fall sports injuries occurred in football and the other two in cross country.
According to the 2006-07 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, 1,576 schools sponsored a competitive boys ice hockey team with 35,955 boys participating, while 504 schools sponsor a girls team with 7,350 girls participating.
Northwest Hockey Conference commissioner Dave Fielding said he could recall only one other serious injury like this during his 15 years involved in high school hockey and that took place in Pittsburgh "10 years ago."
"Kids just don't get hurt in hockey - this is just one of those fluke things that happen," Fielding said. "This happens very seldom. This is not an injury that occurs regularly."
Start coach Matt Oliver said he spoke with Wells, and the 5-9, 180-pounder said he was up on his feet at the hospital but was still feeling the effects from getting hit in the open ice near the blue line.
"He was up and walking a little bit, but said he was still in a lot of pain and sore," Oliver said. "He still doesn't have any movement in his right side from his waist down."
Oliver said the hit from an opposing player knocked Wells off his feet and he landed hard on his backside.
"It was a clean hit and there was nothing dirty about it, and he landed on his butt," Wells said.
Butler, however, said the hit on Cannon was not a clean hit.
"You don't want anything like that to happen but in this case it did happen," Butler said. "It's an unfortunate thing and it's against the rules.
"To attack him deliberately, I did not say that."
The Northwest Hockey League and the Whitmer team have organized a couple of fund-raisers to assist the families of the two injured student-athletes.
The Northwest Hockey League has plans to receive donations during all league games scheduled to take place on Friday night.
All proceeds from the rivalry game between Whitmer and Start on Jan. 24 will be donated to the fund for Wells. The Whitmer coaching staff also arranged to have the Toledo Ice House donate the charge for the two hours of ice time for the game.
The Northwest Ohio Hockey referees have also donated their time for working the annual matchup in which the winner walks away with the Tremainsville Trophy.
Accounts on behalf of Cannon and Wells have been
established at Waterford Bank NA and collections will be taken this weekend beginning Friday at all the Northwest Hockey League game sites - Tam O'Shanter, Ice House, Findlay and Fremont. The donations will be used by the families to address medical expenses from the injuries and recovery period. Checks can be made payable to the following: Benefit Account for Kyle Cannon; Benefit Account for Dustin Wells and Benefit Account for Injured Hockey Players.
Donations can also be made directly to Waterford Bank; 3900 N. McCord Rd., Toledo, OH 43617. Or donations can be sent to NHC Benefit for Injured Players, c/o David Faulkner, 6744 Sweet Bush Ct., Sylvania, OH 43560.
An account for donations for Cannon has also been set up with Charter One Bank.
Contact Donald Emmons at: