Lynx center Lars Pettersen said a million different thoughts popped into his head as he lay motionless on the ice Saturday night at North Charleston Coliseum.
"You're not even thinking about whether you're going to play hockey again," a weary Pettersen said by phone Sunday afternoon from his hospital bed at Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. "You're thinking about walking again."
Pettersen was injured late in the first period of Augusta's 5-0 loss to the South Carolina Stingrays. He was paralyzed below the waist for several minutes.
But after a few painstaking moments, the feeling in his legs returned, and the 23-year-old Pettersen knew he could count his blessings after escaping tragedy.
"I know how lucky I am," Pettersen said. "When you can't move your legs, it kind of puts everything in perspective."
Doctors say Pettersen suffered a contusion of the spinal cord, which caused his temporary paralysis. He also was cut on the back of his head, requiring several stitches.
Tests revealed no permanent damage to his spinal cord, and he also escaped without a concussion.
The Okotoks, Alberta, native was held overnight for observation at MUSC, where he was treated with intravenous steroids to help reduce the swelling around the spinal cord. He was scheduled to be released from the hospital at about 9 p.m. Sunday.
"I'm arm wrestling him right now," said Lynx general manager Paul Gamsby, who stayed with Pettersen in Charleston, and will transport him back to Augusta. "He's beat me three times in a row."
While Gamsby and Pettersen were able to share a few laughs and watch football games on TV Sunday afternoon, it certainly was no laughing matter when Pettersen slammed into the South Carolina net.
With Lynx winger Louis Dumont skating in on a breakaway, Pettersen began streaking toward the Stingrays net looking to join the play. As he approached, the 6-foot-0, 190-pound forward was pushed from behind by a Stingrays player.
Lynx trainer Brian Patafie raced onto the ice, and soon was joined by the Stingrays' trainer and a team of doctors. Fearing a spinal cord injury, the medical team immobilized Pettersen. The player remained on his back for 20 minutes until paramedics took him off on a stretcher and transported him to MUSC by ambulance.
"I don't remember much about it, just that I was going hard at the net to look for a rebound and got pushed from behind," said Pettersen, who finished tied for third in the ECHL in scoring last season. "I was going into the post and put my arm up to protect myself when I felt someone falling on top of me. It felt like the guy pushed me pretty good."
After several minutes, referee Dan O'Rourke sent both teams to the dressing rooms, even though 36 seconds remained in the opening period. Two penalties were handed out to the Stingrays -- a hooking minor on Joel Irving and an interference minor on Brett Marietti. After an intermission, the second period began with 20 minutes and 36 seconds on the clock.
Instances of checking from behind usually draw harsher penalties, up to and including a game misconduct, but O'Rourke apparently did not believe it was intentional.
"I talked to (Lynx coach Scott MacPherson) and he said he looked at the film and saw the push from behind," Gamsby said. "I can't say for sure if it was a dirty hit on their part or not. I haven't seen the tape myself."
Pettersen vows to return to the ice sometime this week and said he plans to be in the lineup Friday when the Lynx travel to play the Florida Everblades.
"As long as the doctors say it's OK, I'll be back," Pettersen said. "I feel a lot better right now than I did last night. From what the doctors said, I don't think I'm going to have to miss any time."
Gamsby said Pettersen will be examined today by the team's doctors in Augusta and, if he gets a clean bill of health, should be cleared to play.
"Lars is a tremendous competitor, so I'm not doubting him," Gamsby said. "We just want our doctors to make sure."
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.