VANCOUVER, B.C. – Teammates were relieved Tuesday after learning Vancouver Canuck centre Ryan Johnson was not seriously injured in a scary crash into the boards during an NHL game.
A hush fell over fans and the benches of the Canucks and Detroit Red Wings at GM Place when Johnson fell awkwardly and hit the boards with a sickening thud.
He was strapped to a spinal board and then to a stretcher and taken to hospital for observation early in the second period of a game won 5-4 by Detroit.
“We were told in between periods that he’s going to be OK,” Canuck centre Ryan Kesler said after the game.
“You hate to see a friend and a teammate go down like that. It really puts things in perspective. It’s an extremely fast game out there. We’re just glad he’s going to be all right.”
A team spokeswoman said Johnson was alert and had full movement when he left for the hospital.
Coach Alain Vigneault said the Thunder Bay, Ont. native had X-rays and a CT scan.
“So far I think everything looks good,” Vigneault said.
Johnson was off balance when he hit the boards. He moved briefly while Detroit winger Brad May went straight to him and Detroit forward Kirk Maltby immediately motioned to the Canuck bench for medical assistance.
The injury occured after Johnson took the puck at the Canuck blue-line, raced through the neutral zone and chipped it into the Detroit end.
As he chased the puck, he clipped Maltby’s skate and brushed the hip of defenceman Niklas Lidstrom.
Despite being off balance, he appeared to tuck his head to tuck his head in before making contact with his back and shoulder.
“He’s a warrior,” said Canuck defenceman Shane O’Brien.
“To see that happen, it looked bad right away. It was the scariest thing that I’ve seen since I played. He’s going to be all right which is huge for us.”
Johnson is known for being a fearless shot blocker and for his work on the penalty killing unit.
Last season he had two goals and nine points in only 62 games, many of them played with a fractured right index finger. He also fractured his left foot in a Nov. 24 win over Detroit.