The moment Brendan woke up, he knew it was going to be a long, long day. His intuition was almost always right, so he knew it was a bad sign when he felt dread building up in the pit of his gut. Something bad was going to happen. He knew it.
Once he looked out his window, he knew his assumption was accurate. There was a literal blizzard happening outside, leaving the hockey player unable to make out his cars in the driveway. The roads had recently been plowed over, though the thick layer of ice was easily noticeable.
He checked his watch and sighed, realizing he only had half an hour before he had to get out of bed and prepare for morning practice. He closed his eyes in a last-ditched effort to get a bit more sleep, but found himself unable to drift off. He gave up on his lavish idea, and rolled out of the massive king-sized bed.
He limped downstairs to the kitchen, his limbs sore from his ever-constant awkward sleeping position. He poured himself some organic Cheerios and milk, before taking out his phone. He scrolled through his Instagram feed for a couple minutes, slowly sipping the milk and cereal.
He lazily washed his bowl in the empty sink and went back up the stairs. He caught a glimpse of himself in the bathroom mirror, pleasantly surprised at his not too disheveled appearance. Weather be damned, today would be a good day.
He put on some grey sweats and a Habs sweatshirt while brushing his teeth. His skin prickled against the -35 cold, threatening to leave even his thick Canadian skin frostbit. After packing his duffel bag and throwing it into the large trunk of his SUV, he turned the key in the ignition and drove away.
He was the first to arrive at the Bell Center 25 minutes later, the parking lot completely empty. He pulled out his phone and wasn’t too shocked to see a severe weather alert, as well as a handful of texts from teammates saying they weren’t going to show up for early skate.
He still had an hour left before practice started, so cranked up the heater and reclined his seat. He napped for a half-hour or so, until he heard a tapping at the window. Max Domi was standing outside, shivering from the weather and motioning to the passenger door.
Gallagher unlocked it, and Domi hurriedly climbed in. “I walked no more than 10 meters and it was enough time to freeze my ass.” He looked outside at the snow violently whirling around them, lost in his thoughts.
It took another 15 minutes before Weber pulled up next to them, 20 for Tatar and a half hour later Gallagher, Price, Weber, Tatar and Domi were on their way to the habs’ locker room.
“I just got an email from the direction, Julien and the other trainers aren’t gonna make it. We’re all on our own I guess.”
“Fun...” “I don’t know about you guys but I’m taking it niceee and easy today.” Domi nodded his head in agreement. Weber pulled out his phone, confused to see his data wasn’t working. The strong winds could be heard from inside the building. “I’m not getting any reception...Are we sure this is a good idea? You guys could come over to my place for brunch instead.” “We can go afterwards, I just really want to work on some drills before,” Domi said. “We’ll be careful, don’t worry.”
Tatar slapped his captain on the back. “We’re professionals, it’ll be fine.” They quickly got changed into their gear and skates and Carey led the small group of athletes into the arena.
It was weird, shuffling through the hallways in utter silence and in the midst of such a small group of people, although the feeling didn’t change. The smell of fresh ice and crunch under the skates would always be satisfying.
Tomas took the pucks out from behind the penalty box and threw them onto the rink. They decided to start with an easy 2 on 2, obviously with Carey in net. Shea and Brendan were staying true to stereotypical hockey player nature, bantering with Tomas and Max. Unluckily for them, Max was an extremely competitive and emotional person, not taking their teasing lightly.
He and Tatar were NOT losing. It just simply wasn’t an option. “Losers cook brunch?” Tomas looked at him with wide eyes. “I can’t cook for shit.” “DEAL!”
Brendan agreed on his and Shea’s behalf. He never passed up on a bet of any kind, especially when he was confident he would leave as the victor. Price was out of nets to make it completely fair, leaving one person from each team on offense and the other on defense.
Brendan had taken possession of the puck and Tomas was at the other side of the rink, nowhere near the play. The captain was racing next to him, leaving Max to defend against a 2 on 1, with no goaltender to back him up. He backed up in front of the net. Gally passed the puck sideways and Weber winded up for a one-timer. Carey was calmly watching everything unfold from the sidelines, but screamed once he realized what Max was doing. The dumbass was going to block the shot.
Max wanted to say that time slowed to a stand-still, like in those cheesy action movies when you knew something bad was going to happen to the main character, but it was the exact opposite.
He barely had time to register his teammates’ screams before he felt the puck collide with his face. He immediately threw his stick and gloves in the air, cradling his injured head with his bare hands. It took a couple seconds for the pain to set in, leaving a couple awkward moments of his friend’s screaming as he fell onto the ice. Hard.
Pain. That’s all he could register. Horrible, sharp, blinding pain radiating from his nose and mouth. He screamed, screeched.
“FUCK!” Max was screaming, covering his injury with blood-covered hands as more blood gushed onto the ice. Brendan and Tomas were still yelling in the background, but Shea and Carey had regained their calm and were hovering next to him.
“Can you move your hands a bit Domes? I’m just going to take a look at what happened, okay?” He seemed to calm down a bit, but was still wheezing and sobbing, more blood pouring all over. Max was one of the toughest players in the league, so you knew the injury was bad when he was expressing this much pain. Carey was getting really worried.
Shea kneeled in front of his injured teammate and lifted his head, but Max started screaming again. He couldn’t even pinpoint where the injury was, but his entire face felt like a jumbled mess and he was 50 percent sure his nose would fall off if he didn’t hold it. There was way too much blood that was forming a puddle on the previously white ice.
“Okay Max, don’t freak out but I’m gonna move your hands to get a better look.” “...h’rts...” Being as careful as he could, Price slowly peeled his bloodied hands away. He gasped and grimaced, trying not to look away. Brendan, who had never been great at dealing with injuries, visibly paled and Tomas ran to go call for help.
Domi’s entire face was already plastered in blood, although it was hard to miss his nose that was unnaturally curved at an excruciatingly painful angle. His left eye was bloodshot and his visor cracked. He must have fallen onto the ice at an awkward angle, since his jaw was visibly sticking out. He started panicking, and it was becoming harder to breathe. “His nose and jaw are definitely broken, but I’m most worried about a concussion.”
Tomas came rushing back onto the ice, with a look of utter terror. “The storm got worse and I can’t get through to anyone.” Brendan cursed. The pain was nauseating and Max was swaying from side to side.
“We’re gonna get you onto your feet, okay?” Max didn’t respond. Tatar and Weber each crouched down next to him and wrapped an arm around his waist. “1, 2, 3, lift!” They pulled Domi up, but his legs buckled under his weight. They carried him to the bench, his feet dragging behind, as Brendan stayed in front and held a cloth to catch the blood. They got to the bench door and paused before hoisting him above the small step.
They walked slowly and supported all of his weight, before finally arriving in the locker room and sitting him in his stall. The bleeding still hadn’t stopped, but he wasn’t screaming anymore. Carey took his pads off and held him up by his shaking shoulders as everyone else undressed.
Tomas dialled 911 again, but threw the phone on the ground when no one picked up. “The children’s hospital is only 10 km North from here, we could try driving?” “We won’t make it in a blizzard. If ever the car breaks down he could go into shock.” “Well we can’t just wait here for someone to find us!”
The lights flickered overhead. “We don’t exactly have much of a choice...” Domi groaned and Brendan took his hand. “It’s okay bud, we’re gonna get you to a hospital. Promise.” He started gagging. The pain was giving him a migraine and he couldn’t even speak. Less and less air was finding it’s way into his lungs.
“Sit back a bit, it’ll open up your airways.” He held onto the walls of his stall with an iron grip and cried out in pain again. He was unable to breathe through his nose, but breathing through his mouth only aggravated his broken jaw. The pain hadn’t lessened one bit, if anything it had only worsened, since now his head was pounding and he was having trouble keeping his left eye open.
He could tell by his teammates’ terrified expression that his face looked as bad as it felt. His nose was spewing out blood like a waterfall, and he could feel a bit coming out of his eyelid and mouth as well. Max’s eyes were cast downwards and he was leaning out of his stall, staring at the red that was staining the carpeted floor.
He spit out some blood, immediately clasping a hand back to his mouth. The lights flickered again. Shea very gently took off Max’s helmet and realized his forehead was bleeding. There was a long, but luckily, shallow, cut running across his hairline. “Shit...he’s losing too much blood.”
Never in his entire life had Brendan felt so useless.
Max was starting to feel really light-headed, and swayed dangerously. “Max, keep your eyes open.” Things were spiraling out of control. “‘M...g’nna f’nt...H’sp’tal.” “The storm is still too strong, but don’t worry we’ll figure something out.”
Max miraculously had a coherent thought even with his muddled brain. “D’betes bag...t’p...” Okay, so maybe only somewhat coherent. Brendan did as he was told, and gave him the requested bag. His hands were shaking and blood was literally clouding his vision, but he still managed to unzip it and take out a keychain. It fell out of his hands, but Tomas managed to catch it in time.
Domi spit out blood and groaned again. Brendan sat down next to Max and supported the back of his head with his palm and aligned his spine with his arm, while his other hand held his jaw in place. The bone felt weird underneath his gentle fingertips, it was definitely at least dislocated. Max eyed the blood-covered button on the keychain and Carey caught on. He pressed it and looked back up at the injured player, awaiting an explanation.
Brendan held the joints of his jaw as Domi spoke to prevent him from aggravating it. “...di’ab’tes help...tra’ners...” “So they’re coming because they think your blood level is at a dangerous level?” He made a noise that sounded like a yes. Carey stepped forward and held a towel to the cut on his forehead that was still bleeding profusely.
“Can you see out of your left eye?” Domi didn’t answer and just stared ahead. “Domes, look at me.” He blinked twice and came back to reality. “Keeps your eyes open, okay? We don’t know if you have a concussion or not.” Max looked back at the ground and shut his eyes. He swayed one more time before finally going limp in Brendan’s strong arms, knocked out cold.
“Fuck!” “Hold him up, I’ll sit down and he can lay against me.” Brendan sat on the carpet as Tatar and Weber moved Max’s unmoving form off the seat. They carefully laid him in between Gallagher’s bent knees and against his chest.
Carey knelt down in front of Max and held a towel to his nose in an attempt to slow down the flow of blood. Shea and Tomas quickly took off their skates and ran down the multiple hallways towards the main entrance of the Bell Center, to direct the trainers that would hopefully show up soon.
“Man, his face looks really messed up. Must be super painful.” “He has a broken jaw and nose, no doubt about it. I just really hope he doesn’t have a concussion too.” “He seemed really out of it before, but it may be from the blood loss.” “Fuck, he was bleeding way too much. This could be really bad.”
For the first time that day, Weber looked outside and realized the sheer severity of the situation. “I just hope they get here asap...” Deep down, he knew it may be a while. The blizzard was still going strong outside.
Meanwhile, quite a bit away, Max had woken up again. The sharp pain had turned into a horrible, dull ache, leaving him paralyzed. Brendan was holding him from behind, his arms wrapped around his waist. Even if their pads were separating them, he could still feel the heat radiating off of Gally. He weakly let his head loll to the side and against Brendan’s shoulder.
Carey was sitting in front of him, holding a towel against his forehead and another one at the bridge of his extremely damaged nose. His and Brendan’s previously white jerseys were stained with blood, but it wasn’t like they cared or anything. Price tousled his hair reassuringly. Max whimpered and Brendan moved one of his hands hand to grip Domi’s.
“Hey hey hey. I got you, I got you...Hold my hand.” They intertwined fingers. Carey placed the bloodied towel that was covering the cut in his forehead on the ground and put his own hand on top of the two others. “Help’s on the way. Just hold on a little longer, okay?”
Tatar and Weber were growing restless. At least an hour had passed since the accident, and Max was drifting in and out of consciousness. It had also been a while since they left the locker room and got any news on Max. “Go check on them, I’ll stay here and continue waiting.” Tatar nodded and jogged downstairs, down the twisting corridors.
He ran into the locker room. Price looked up immediately. There was blood all over his jersey, his hands, his face. Same for Brendan and the carpet.
“Any news?” “Not yet...How’s he holding up?” He looked at Max, who was looking much too pale. His entire body was covered in blood and even if he was lying down against Brendan, he was clearly disoriented. His left eye was clenched shut and his jaw was still hanging open awkwardly. Brendan was propping it up with his hand and Carey was covering his nose with a bloodied towel. There were colourful bruises blossoming on his forehead and underneath his eyes.
He groaned in pain and winced. “...hu-h’rts...” There seemed to be blood in his throat, but didn’t cough because of his jaw. “Max, you have to cough. It’s going to hurt, but better that than choking.” His eyes started tearing up. Brendan could feel himself crying as well.
“You may want to leave, it isn’t pretty...” Carey said. Tomas nodded and left, not needing any more convincing. He started making his way back to the entrance, but still heard horrible guttural coughing. He found Weber pacing back and forth. “It’s really bad and we all agree that if they don’t come within the next 5 minutes we should risk it and drive to the hospital ourselves.”
The storm had gotten marginally less chaotic and Shea took out his phone. Still no reception. 10 minutes went by and Shea took the executive decision of driving Max to the hospital. Just as he started running down the hallways, Tatar yelled. “They’re here!” Weber was so relieved he could cry. He ran outside up to the truck that had pulled up.
Two medical trainers stepped out. “Where’s Domi? And why are you covered in blood?” “Max got a puck to the face!” He yelled over the howling winds. They entered the building and Tomas took one of their first aid bags. A blood-curdling scream was heard. Graham looked at Tomas and was shocked. He was completely drenched in blood as well. This was much worse than he expected.
“Contact the paramedics with the radio in the truck,” he told his co worker. “He broke his nose and jaw for sure and there’s something wrong with his left eye. He’s been bleeding non-stop for the past hour and we aren’t sure if he has a concussion or not.” Graham nodded and started running faster. Having been in the business for 19 years, he’s seen his fair share of injuries. However, he could say without a doubt that this was by far the...bloodiest one.
Price moved out of the way and he fell on his knees in front of him. “Open your eyes Domi.” His right eye fluttered opened, but the left one stayed shut. He immediately put his gloves on and started feeling his jaw. Max groaned. “Shit.” He cautiously wiped the blood off Max’s face to get a better look at his nose. “Fuck.” There was a large laceration across his forehead and he slicked his hair back. “Holy shit.”
Max started sobbing. “Can you open your left eye?” He groaned, but his eyelid weakly lifted. “Okay, you can close it.” The other trainer ran into the room. “They’re on their way.” Graham nodded.
Max shut his eyes again. “Eyes open Domi.” He whimpered, but found himself unable to open it. “Tell them to get here faster.” He felt his pulse, worried with how faint it was. “Make sure they have O- blood, he’s going to need a transfusion.” The other doctor nodded and left the room, Tomas joining him.
Graham grabbed his first aid kit and ruffled through it. He took Max’s blood pressure, not happy at all with how low it was. “Pass me his diabetes bag.” Carey tossed it to him and he took out the glucometer before measuring Max’s sugar level.
“Holy fuck.” “What’s wrong?” “Everything. Domi, listen to me. Are you having any trouble breathing?” “He was before.” “I’m going to put a neck brace on, but you’re going to have to be able to breathe through your nose first.” Brendan gulped. He didn’t like where this was going. “It’s going to hurt, but I have to reset it. The sooner the better...” Max didn’t answer verbally, but his grip on Brendan’s hand tightened.
“Price, Weber, help Gallagher hold him down. He can’t move at all.” They assumed the position and Max braced himself. “Ready? 3...2...”
Everyone was expecting a scream, or at least a wail. Everyone was incorrect. Max went completely limp, more importantly, completely unconscious.
He swore loudly once his nose started bleeding again. He took out the neck brace. “Support his head.” He gently passed it underneath his neck and fastened it into place. The cut on his forehead was continuously bleeding. Having stabilized his worst injury, they could move him around easier and Graham laid him down, his head resting on Brendan’s lap.
Graham took his pulse again, but could barely feel it at all. “Are you strong enough to carry him Weber? He doesn’t have much time left.” “What’s wrong?” “Severely broken jaw, severely broken nose, facial fracture, concussion.” “Is he...going to be alright?” “He’s going to need surgery, no doubt about it. It’s not the injuries, it’s how much blood he lost. How much blood he’s losing.”
The other trainer came running in with a paramedic, who was yelling orders into his walkie-talkie. He was carrying an IV bag and inserted a needle into Max’s arm. “He’s type 1 diabetic. Pulse is weakening. Bleeding for past hour, broken jaw, nose, concussion and facial fracture. Blood type is O- and BP is lowering by the minute,” Graham listed off.
A second and third paramedic entered the room, as well as a stretcher. They swiftly lifted his prone form on top of the mattress and strapped him in. They were unlocking the wheels, propping him up and inserting another IV all at once. People were barking orders, out drowning Brendan’s sobs.
“This is all my fault...I’m sorry Max...I’m so sorry...” he cried.
“C’mon, this is no time to get all depressed. Let’s tail them so that Max won’t be alone once they arrive.” They jumped into their jackets and boots and hopped into Brendan’s truck. Brendan was in a state of shock, so Tomas took the wheel.
“Don’t worry Gally, Domes will be alright.” Carey’s voice trembled as he tried reassuring Brendan. “It’s my fault...I’m the one who fired the shot anyways...” “Max is the only one to blame. He’s the retard who decided to block it and no one here is accountable for it, okay?” Everyone went silent.
They followed the ambulance throughout the entire journey, the piercing sirens audible from inside the vehicle. They pulled up in the emergency parking and ran inside the building.