Ice Hawks players on the mend after CO poisoning
Things finally are getting back to normal for the Rochester Ice Hawks.
With carbon monoxide poisoning and the subsequent media frenzy behind them, the local junior-hockey team returned to full practice this morning at the Rochester Recreation Center. The Ice Hawks held a well-attended (about 20 players) optional practice Tuesday, and coach Nick Fatis said the team would be at full-go today.
"We took a poll and asked the guys after Tuesday morning, how many of them felt they could play a game (Tuesday night) and seven guys said they could," Fatis said. "That's not bad considering. The doctors told us every 10 hours you should see more improvement. So we keep checking in with the guys."
Fatis said he spoke with Dells Ducks coach Bill Zaniboni, and the Ducks are taking a similar approach. "They took Monday and (Tuesday) off and are back at it (today)," Fatis said.
Fatis has been slow to recover from the carbon monoxide poisoning that sent 25 Ice Hawks players and coaches to the hospital. Assistant coach Corey Dubois also has struggled this week with dizziness. He said doctors informed him he could feel ill for a few days or even a few weeks.
Ice Hawks defenseman and Austin native Marcus Stoulil had the highest Carboxyhemoglobin reading (the blood test done to check for carbon monoxide poisoning) on the team. A reading of 30 percent or greater is considered severe CO poisoning. Stoulil checked in at 39.5, Fatis said. At 50 percent, CO poisoning can be fatal.
"I believe the Ducks player who had to be airlifted had just a little higher reading than Marcus did, and Marcus already had oxygen for an entire ambulance ride before they did that reading," Fatis said. "We were very lucky. Marcus is doing great. Everyone reacts to this differently, and even though he had the highest reading, he has done much better than some other guys on the team."
With many players approaching 100 percent normalcy, Fatis said the team is trying to refocus on the task at hand. The Ice Hawks are set to return to action during the Minnesota Junior Hockey League Showcase on Saturday in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. They'll play games Saturday, Sunday and Monday, all in Wisconsin against teams from the Central Division of the MnJHL.
"For the past few days, hockey has been secondary," Fatis said. "A lot of guys are begging to have hockey be the focus again. I will say, our team is a lot tighter now than we were before that trip. But we're ready to make hockey a day-to-day activity. It'll be nice to get back to normal."
The MnJHL said through a statement it plans to address this weekend's CO scare with its owners this weekend. With 14 teams in six different states, the MnJHL currently doesn't require CO monitoring in its arenas. Minnesota regulates air quality in its ice arenas, as do Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Poppy Waterman Arena added CO detectors this week following the incident.
In Rochester, an automated system measures air quality at both Graham Arena and the Rochester Recreation Center. If an elevated level of CO is detected, an alarm sounds and exhaust fans automatically kick in.
"Once again, we are lucky to live in Rochester; we have the best facilities," Fatis said. "It doesn't get any better than Rochester. The other thing is, even though it's almost impossible for this to happen in Rochester, if it did happen here, we have the best medical staff here and we'd have people in the care of Mayo Clinic staff in a matter of minutes. We're just very, very lucky."