Cape Breton hockey player out of hospital after being struck in the head by puck

·3 min read

A high school hockey player in Port Hawkesbury is recovering after being struck in the head by a puck, fracturing his skull.

Anthony MacDonald, 15, was picking up pucks at the end of a practice last Tuesday when the puck hit him.

"I was on the bench untying my skates and one of the other kids yelled out my name and when I looked up Anthony was staggering and then he fell on the ice," said Mark MacDonald, Anthony's father and an assistant coach with the Strait Area Education Recreation Centre Saints hockey team.

Anthony was rushed to the local hospital. He was stabilized and then airlifted to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

He underwent surgery and was then put in an induced coma for five days.

Lara Cassidy
Lara Cassidy

"I hope that no parent would ever have to go through that," said Mark. "It's just not a good experience."

Other than some difficulty breathing when he came out of the coma this week, he was in good spirits and quickly was asking to go home.

That wish came true on Thursday when pilot Dimitri Neonakis volunteered to fly Anthony home to Port Hawkesbury in his plane.

Anthony rode shotgun in the front of the small aircraft while Neonakis made sure not to fly too high and cause any pressure on his head.

Jamie Lynne MacInnis
Jamie Lynne MacInnis

There was a large crowd spread out to welcome Anthony home when they landed in Port Hawkesbury. Among the crowd were many of his high school friends and the entire hockey team.

Anthony spent nine days in the hospital and many of his teammates showed up to pay a visit. They weren't allowed inside the hospital because of COVID-19 restrictions, but they all wore their hockey jerseys and waved to him from below.

His injury has sparked support from residents in the Strait area.

A GoFundMe campaign aimed at raising $5,000 for his family has now raised more than $41,000.

Shelly Forgeron, from Richmond County, and organized the fundraising drive even though she is more than 5,000 kilometres away in Fort McMurray, Alta.

Anthony has already said he plans to donate much of the money raised to charities around Port Hawkesbury.

"There's something about small, rural communities where generosity just kind of runs through your blood," said Forgeron. "Anthony is pretty well known throughout the quad counties through his sports."

One of the donations came from Russia when Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues made a donation.

Many local hockey teams have chipped in with donations, too.

Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins sent Anthony a jersey, and video messages were sent by Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and ex-NHL player Aaron Johnson, who is from Port Hawkesbury.

Anthony's recovery is expected to go slowly.

He'll begin his rehab in Port Hawkesbury and will return to Halifax for another procedure next month.

"They cut a piece of his skull out basically to relieve the pressure and relieve the bleeding," said Mark. "They'll be re-attaching the bone flap that is still out of his head."

Anthony's family has been overwhelmed by the support.

He took his helmet off after last week's practice and that's when he got hit. His family wants to get the message out that helmets should be worn at all times.