February 19, 2009
Police are saying that the team bus for the AHL Albany River Rats, the minor league affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes, rolled on its side during a trip down slippery Interstate 90 in western Massachusetts at approximately 3:35 a.m. EST. The crash sent at least three individuals to the hospital with "serious" injuries.
(UPDATE: The names if the injured, and still hospitalized, have been released: center Nicholas Blanchard, defenseman Casey Borer, winger Joe Jensen, defenseman Jonathan Paiement and radio broadcaster John Hennessy, former voice of the New Jersey Devils. Thanks to Puck Buddy Anne for the update.)
Rats Coach Jeff Daniels told the Albany Times Union that none of the injuries are life-threatening. From the Union:
The team was returning from Lowell when the bus hit bad weather in the Berkshire Mountains and rolled, Daniels said. It struck a guardrail, coming to rest on its side and partially on the highway. The discovery of the disabled bus prompted other motorists to stop their vehicles on the highway and then try to slow approaching traffic, Daniels said.
Some seriously injured suffered lacerations during the accident. Everybody on the bus was taken to Berkshire Medical Center. Four people were admitted for treatment and all aboard were being checked out by medical staff as a precaution.
The Rats were returning from a 3-2 shootout loss to the Lowell Devils, and have a game scheduled at home against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Friday night. The paper spoke with Owen Newkirk, the team's communications director, who said he suffered a slight concussion but that he has to crawl "through a window to escape the wreckage." Yikes.
As a sports fan, it's rather inconceivable how this sort of thing hasn't happened more often and more tragically with teams traveling so often. Times Union columnist Mark McGuire has a good instant impact piece on travel tragedies both recent and historic, and offers this closer:
They've made movies about transportation disasters involving sports teams ("We Are Marshall," "Alive"). In the fall of 2007 the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL were involved in a bus accident in Pennsylvania. No one was killed. But earlier than year, seven people died when a bus carrying the Bluffton University baseball team crash in Atlanta.
Yeah, call the River Rats lucky. Albany has a home game slated for Friday night, but will soon be back on the road. Travel will still be a pain. But they know it could be a lot worse.
We're sure there are more than a few minor league hockey teams pouring into their buses over the next two days that will be thinking about the Rats, too.