For the Lake Erie Monsters, the result of Friday’s AHL contest will be secondary to the health of winger Brett Gallant.
Gallant, 27, collapsed while sitting on the bench during a TV timeout in the second period of the Monsters’ weekend-opening game against the Toronto Marlies. Gallant remained down while he was attended to by medical staff, and after several minutes on the bench, he was placed on a stretcher and taken from the ice.
Shortly after Gallant was taken from the ice, the game between the Monsters and Marlies continued.
According to Lake Erie coach Jared Bednar, Gallant experienced a fainting incident.
"All indications are that he's fine," Bednar told THN's Ryan Kennedy. "When he left here, he was up talking and walking around. They were going to take him to the hospital to run some tests and make sure nothing more serious was going on. We haven't heard anything more than he's doing fine."
There was no immediate update on Gallant’s status, but before the start of the third frame the Monsters’ official Twitter account reported that he had left the building for further medical attention.
"We can report that Brett Gallant is alert and conscious,” the Monsters said. “He is currently being transported to a local hospital. We're thinking of you, Gally."
Gallant has spent his entire campaign with the Monsters, registering one assist and 151 penalty minutes in 48 games.
"He's the protector of all our kids," Bednar said. "He's a physical guy, really good leader, a great team guy in the room and on the ice. our guys look up to him a lot. They respect what he does for our team and how he keeps the other team honest."
In his seven-year professional career, Gallant — a native of Summerside, PEI — has suited up in four NHL games, all with the New York Islanders.
Gallant is in the first season of a two-year, $1.5-million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He inked the deal in the off-season after he wasn't re-signed by the Islanders.
The Monsters rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the third to tie the game against Toronto before losing in overtime and according to rookie defenseman Zach Werenski, Gallant's status had an impact. The team got an update during intermission that the tough guy was doing well and may have just lost his wind and couldn't get it back quick enough.
"It made us a little more comfortable in the third," he said. "In the second, it was on our minds and in the third we came out and played better, just knowing that he was OK."
The scary situation Friday with Gallant is the second time this season an AHLer has collapsed on the bench. In January, Grand Rapids Griffins winger Alden Hirschfeld collapsed on the bench and needed medical attention. Like Gallant, Hirschfeld was taken from the ice on a stretcher. Hirschfeld has not played since the incident in January.
Some of the Monsters have even gone through a similar trauma before. When Columbus' AHL affiliate was in Springfield, left winger Wade Macleod suffered a seizure during a game after taking a hit. It was later discovered that Macleod had a brain tumor, but he recovered and still plays pro hockey to this day in Europe.
Interviews and additional reporting by Ryan Kennedy