Hockey games change in a heart beat. It could be a goal, a brilliant save, a bad call, or “the worst injury I’ve seen.”
Posse head coach Bill Rotheisler knew from across the ice at the Summerland Arena December 20 that newly-signed Brandon Schaber was in serious trouble.
“I’ve known Brandon a long time. He’s a pretty tough guy and he doesn’t usually show pain. He was down on the ground…and there was a tremendous amount of blood.”
Schaber, 19, was locked in the corner with a teammate and a Summerland player when a stick struck him in the face “acting like a machete,” crushing bone and cartridge and tearing flesh.
“The nose part was gone,” said Rotheisler. “The cartilage was there, and the skin had peeled back exposing basically whatever was under it which wasn’t much and it wasn’t a pretty sight.”
Schaber, who was taken to Penticton General Hospital, moved to Kelowna General Hospital and eventually transferred to University of Alberta Hospital, suffered numerous breaks to both nose bones as well as two fractures to the orbital bone beneath his right eye.
Doctors are now waiting for Schaber’s facial swelling to reduce enough that he can undergo reconstructive surgery. A best-case scenario sees him returning to the ice in eight to ten weeks.
“When something like this happens the game stops,” said Rotheisler. “It’s not about the game, win or lose anymore, your concern is about the well-being of your players. The boys have long careers and lives and you are concerned about any long-term effects and making sure they are alright physically and also mentally.”
Rotheisler said he anticipated Schaber’s reaction to the incident. “You’ve got to know Brandon to understand. He’s a pretty tough guy. He’s just telling everybody not to worry about it that he’s fine and trying to keep a sense of humor the whole time.
“The first question he asked was how soon he could come back.”
Princeton re-signed Schaber December 1 from the Estevan Bruins, the culmination of a series of trades that saw the Posse give up point leader Colton St. John to the Comox Valley Glacier Kings. He recorded four goals and two assists in his first seven games.
“Our expectations of Brandon were big and they still are because eventually he will be back,” said Rotheisler. “We’ve always known we are a playoff team and he will be back for that.”
Also over the holiday break the Posse lost second year key forward Tyler Ehlers, who left the team citing personal reasons.
“He’s not going to be easy to replace but at the same time there are other guys who are going to pick up the slack.”