Isn’t 2016 over yet?

As I continue to struggle with Micah’s loss, it seems that every day I have a new challenge to face that tries to bring me back to square one.  Sometimes it’s just a picture or a sound or some random memory about Micah himself.  It can be a moment at the rink (like I described earlier this week–the goalie heading towards the net) or a song on the radio.  Tonight, it was something far worse…

As most of you know from reading my blog, I was chosen about seven weeks ago as the public address announcer for the Tucson Roadrunners of the American Hockey League.  The AHL is the top hockey minor league in North America, the league whose teams act as the top minor league affiliates for all NHL teams.  The Roadrunners are the top farm club of the Arizona Coyotes, so, in theory the guys on the Roadrunners are right on the doorstep of playing in the NHL.  I digress.

Tonight’s game against the Manitoba Moose (farm club for the Winnipeg Jets) started out the same as most games–this was our seventh home game of the season, so many things have become routine.  The players from both teams came out to warm up.  I took an inventory of who was on the ice for each team, so I could figure out the scratches.  I even got a nice picture of Roadrunners goalie Adin Hill chatting up Moose goalie Eric Comrie.  Players left the ice and the Zams came out and gave it a good cut while I announced a half dozen different upcoming promotions and such.  I announced the officials, the scratches and the visiting lineup.  Dusty (mascot) led the players out onto the ice, I announced our starters, and it was National Anthem time.   The Tucson Fire Department Pipes and Drums (bagpipes, wild) came out for a little intro, followed by a great group of smaller kids from the Tucson International School that sang both Oh Canada and the Star Spangled Banner.

Kids and bagpipes off the ice, players are skating around getting ready for puck drop, and as I watch, Roadrunners captain, 26-year old Craig Cunningham falls to the ice maybe 15 feet in front of me.  I thought maybe he slipped, hit a bump in the ice or a divot never truly fixed from the earlier Arizona Wildcats hockey game.  He laid still for a minute.  I thought maybe he was chuckling to himself, waiting for a teammate to notice and help him back up.  After about 30 seconds, one of the refs came over to check on him–and immediately signaled to the benches for help.  Within a minute or two, three of the bagpipe players (who were actual Tucson firefighters and likely paramedics), the trainers from both benches, and the on-call EMTs were surrounding Cunningham.

Speculation started–did he slip and get a concussion?  Was it a seizure?  Was he talking to the EMTs and staff?  As soon as I saw them working on his jersey and gear–and one of the off-ice officials said, “they’re cutting off his jersey and his pads,” my heart and stomach dropped.  This was too real.  This was too recent.  When I further heard that they were giving him chest compressions on the ice and as they were wheeling him off…  It took everything I had to stay calm and keep together.

Once again, I jumped into my coping mechanism: staying busy.  I helped craft a couple announcements to read to the anxious, scared crowd.  I did what I could, from the microphone, to keep the crowd calm and patient.  In that, anyhow, I appeared to be successful.  But I was shaken.

I still am shaken, four-plus hours later writing this blog.  I cannot discuss the situation, both out of respect for Craig Cunningham and his family’s privacy, as well as my bosses at the Roadrunners and our parent club, the Arizona Coyotes .  I would never dream of hurting Craig, his family, or the Roadrunners or Coyotes, but with my primary method of self-treatment and therapy being writing this blog, I’m stuck writing what I can and trying to cope internally with the rest.

Please send your thoughts, prayers and wishes to Craig and his family tonight during this very difficult time.  I’m sure I’ll persevere, but not without asking myself–when is too much really too much?!