A star Massachusetts high school hockey player is facing the possibility that he may not walk again following a spinal injury during a tournament game over the weekend.
Milton Academy senior Jake Thibeault, 18, is currently paralyzed from the waist down and being treated at UMass Memorial Medical Center after fracturing his spine and suffering a minor brain bleed while playing an Eastern Alliance Kickoff tournament game Saturday in Hopedale.
He was slammed into the ice rink boards by another player, which happens often in hockey, but his father said he knew this time was bad.
“When he collapsed to the ice, it was right in front of me, literally a foot away from the other side of the glass, I just happen to be standing there,” Mike Thibeault told NBC Boston. “I haven’t been able to keep my eyes closed for long since to shake that image.”
He said "chances are very slim" his son will ever walk again. The 18-year-old's spirits, however, are high.
"Jake being Jake simply said: 'It’s a bump in the road. I’m going to get through this,'" Mike Thibeault said.
He added: "I’m his dad, I have age and experience, but I do not have the ... fortitude and character of my 18-year-old son to be able to sit there like that and be thinking about how you’re going to excel."
The high school senior has since talked to his coach about training to become a sled skating Olympian.
Jake Thibeault's team asked people to keep him in their prayers.
"Please keep Bulldog and @MiltonAcad_puck forward Jake Thibeault in your prayers," the team said in a tweet. "Jake had a collision yesterday at the EAK tourney and suffered a spinal cord injury and small brain bleed. He's got limited mobility in lower extremities. Jake to nurses today..'I'm ready to fight.'"