This is the FULL STORY of the injury that ended my 21/22 hockey season and the surgery that took place while my team was hoisting the league title. --
The puck goes over to the half wall.
Giving the long side of the net with my toes facing the corner, I take away any passes to the back door and allow the goalie to see the puck.
I bait the shot, and step in front of it at the last second.
“You know I really gotta let the goalie do his job for fuck sakes.”
We plan for the blows and protect ourselves. There's a constant, conscious and unconscious evaluation going on all the time. Shin pads, inner thigh, glove, arm, hand, skate, high and wide, head, neck, through for an easy save, even a goal.
But never this.
Never a wrist shot that explodes your cup (and its contents).
I’ve never felt such pain.
From about 17:30 in the 3rd period through the end of the game (W) — I’d roll around on the dressing room floor trying to find refuge.
After the game had finished I was left with bruising, minor swelling, and, to my relief, simple advice to get myself to A&E only if the pain remained or the swelling increased.
I assured my teammates I’d be alright and that I felt okay... then I made it up to my hotel room after our post game meal to better evaluate:
“Yeah, A&E. Let’s go.”
I thought an injury like this was bad. That was, until I saw what a busy emergency room looked like on a Saturday night. A warzone.
It’s no wonder the lady checking me in asked nothing more than my name, address, and what had happened.
Me: “I uhhh *looks left looks right*, I took a “low-blow.”
Her: “A wHaAaAt?”
Me: “I was hit in the testicles by a hockey puck.”
Her: “Go sit down.”
Having sat down and taken a look around at those far more desperate looking than I was, I had no doubt I was at the bottom of the list.
She doesn’t realize that I’ve already seen a doctor, that the injury happened hours ago, and that I COULD LOSE THIS THING.
I had to act, so I tracked the nearest male who looked “in uniform.” He's a paramedic. I sense his hesitation as I approach. I can assume he’s had a big night and *can’t wait* to do a midnight Q&A with me.
“Mate can I talk to you real quick? Please, I’m not taking the piss. I’m a professional hockey player and took a hockey puck in the pills tonight. I’ve seen a doctor already and I’m worried I’m not being taken seriously here.”
“Were you wearing a cup?” he asked.
With the photo ready on my phone I reached out and share: “Yeah, it’s right here.”
His thousand yard stare said it all. “I’ll be right back.”
Five minutes later he emerged and said: “You’re next.”
“THANK YOU mate. What's your name?
“Thank you, Ollie.”
Then about five minutes later my name was called. Impatiently the woman who brought me in goes: “Alright I’ve got a long night so let’s just drop 'em so I can see what we’re dealing with.”
“OU… yeahhh I’ll be right back.”
The rest of my night saw me being thrown up the chain of command and the next morning (Sunday) I was given an ultrasound that would show my left testicle was ruptured.
I would await surgery as Hope would arrive in Sheffield and as the boys prepared to play the Sheffeild Steelers in a game that could see we were the 2022 Elite League Champions.
Emotions were MIXED.
I can’t thank Hope enough for her support and quieting my concerns as she allowed me to focus myself, assuring me that she’d get on just fine. She was unable to visit due to COVID complications and I was unsure of what the next few days were going to look like. It was such a relief to not feel the pressure of needing to have the answers or to be of any availability aside from some text messages or the odd call.
And so, I waited. I waited all day and even ended up streaming that night’s game, all the way into OVERTIME.
Someone new to the equation comes to take me to surgery: “Put all of your things in here for safe keeping, we’ve gotta go.”
Me: “Oh no, I’m so sorry but this is the game I’m supposed to be playing in and there’s 1:41 left in OT.”
In a casual and nonchalant way, and without being condescending she suggested: “Well, maybe next time you should defend yourself, like a boxer.”
I quickly message Keefer and Hope before my things were locked away.
Then, there they were. The SWAT team. These people were ready to rock. I notice one girl off to the side, she's scrolling on her phone.
Me: “Excuse me, do you have twitter?”
Her: “Yeah, why?”
Me: “Could you do me a huge favour and search ‘Belfast Giants’ for me?”
She flashed me her screen showing me the Belfast Giant’s twitter page: goal, no goal, etc.
Me: “They’re in a shootout! If you see a gif looking thing that comes up whether it says ‘win’ or ‘lose’ can you let me know?”
About 20-seconds later she pointed her phone showing me a gif reading “win” with confetti flying.
Bewildered and ecstatic, I'm carted away before I can say anything to her.
“HOLYYYYY SHIT” I thought as I bragged to the people who were ready to hit me with the gas.
Them: “Alright, you ready? You seem… chill.”
Me: “We’re Champs.”
I breathe a huge sigh of relief and, with the help of some anesthesia, I'm out.
I woke with what the doc tells me is about 25% less left testicle (Hope and I think it's more like 33%).
I was gonna be alright, and the boys were having a blast. I woke to pictures of Hope hoisting the cup in my jersey and infinite messages congratulating the team and I. I felt so much love. I spent my celebration in the metaverse but was surprised by Hope, Keefer, and Besko who were able to convince somebody that this cup had a stop to make. What a special visit and moment.
The next day I was released from the hospital at 15:00. The Giants had allowed Hope to stay in my hotel room that was kept for me and so I met her there. Once released I got straight on the phone with Steve “I gotta make it to Belfast tonight.”
I can’t thank the Giants enough for the hospitality of both Hope and I in this scenario. Hope was perfectly accommodated as she awaited my release and then in one phone call we were in a cab en route to Manchester on the next flight to Belfast International to join the celebrations. We were able to make it back to Belfast at around 9pm, an hour after the Off Ice bar was meant to close for our little private party. I was met by the team who I’d waited so desperately to reunite with.
What a night. What a story. I have so many more to thank. Thank you from both Hope and I to the boys and staff for welcoming her onto the ice with such a welcoming embrace. Thank you Taff for making sure that “22” was able to hit the ice in such a memorable way. Thank you to the Giants faithful for all the messages of concern and well wishes. Thank you to the staff and surgeons of Chesterfield Hospital. Thank you Steve Key for spending an entire night in A&E while I awaited word. Thank you Steve Thornton for making sure we were able to get back home while celebrations were still on - I’m so grateful to have made it.
We play this game to win and to collect memories. I brought Hope to Belfast with hopes that the season would allow her to gain a strong sense of who Kevin Raine the athlete was, what the hockey community was all about, and what about it there is to love. I have to believe that there is no recipe that could have been better concocted to do exactly this. I would never have guessed or dreamt of such a roller coaster leading to her own on-ice celebration of the league title win. I think I can confidently say that this experience, and the entire season, was the perfect way of showing her why I, and we as players, love this game so much.
“I’d give my left nut..” was just a saying until this happened.
Now what is it?
“It was all worth it -- that’s what.”