BECKET, Mass. – A bus carrying the Albany River Rats flipped onto its side on slick roads in western Massachusetts early Thursday, injuring four players, including a pair of Canadians, and the American Hockey League team’s radio commentator.
The bus carrying the team home from a game in Lowell struck a guard rail about 3:20 a.m. on Interstate 90. Police said the bus rolled onto its side before coming to rest across the left travel lane and median.
Jonathan Paiement, a defenceman from Montreal, and Nicolas Blanchard, a forward from Granby, Que., were among those in hospital. Defenceman Casey Borer and winger Joe Jensen, along with radio commentator John Hennessy, were also at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, coach Jeff Daniels said. None of the injuries was considered life-threatening.
“It’s not too bad,” a groggy Blanchard told the Albany Times Union. He said he was asleep on the bus. The next thing he realized he was awakened by the crash.
Daniels, an Oshawa, Ont., native, said most of the 28 players and staff were trying to sleep when the bus driver lost control. Daniels said he woke to a rumbling sound and realized the bus was sliding.
“Then guys were flying over the seats and we were on our side,” he said.
Everyone was able to get out of the bus on their own, but many were cut and bloodied and some had broken bones and concussions, Daniels said. Some players could miss significant time, but Daniels said the injuries weren’t career-threatening.
He compared the crash to “one tough game.”
“It’s not an opponent you want to play again,” he said.
Albany’s game Friday night against Bridgeport has been cancelled.
Borer spent parts of the past two seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes, the River Rats’ NHL affiliate. He skated in three games in December with Carolina before he was sent back down to Albany, and he has one goal and two assists in 14 career NHL games with Carolina. Jensen had one goal in six games late last season with the Hurricanes.
The crash remains under investigation, but police said winter weather and icy roads may have contributed to the wreck. The accident closed the left and right travel lanes of highway for more than seven hours, forcing traffic to use the breakdown lane.