Facing an uncertain future and the fear that his hockey career might be over, Michäel Tams was only now fully grasping the long-term impact of the vicious blow to the head he received during a Quebec junior hockey game which left him unconscious and convulsing on the ice.
Meeting journalists for the first time since the incident, the 18-year old Quebec Rempart defenseman said he has no recollection of the incident, only fears about what lies ahead.
"While I was in the emergency room not realizing where I was or why I was there, I got scared, really scared," Tam said during a news conference Friday. "As I was regaining consciousness I felt an incredible thing. I remember wondering if I would ever walk again…Mostly I was scared that I would never get to play hockey again."
The incident, that will likely scar forever Tam's hockey career, happened last Sunday during a game against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies when Patrice Cormier who was captain of Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Saskatchewan, drove his elbow in Tam's face as he skated by him at centre ice.
Tam and his family who live in Quebec City have yet to decide whether to lay charges against Cormier. They are waiting whether Tam will be able to resume his hockey career. They are also waiting the outcome of a police investigation after Remparts coach and co-owner Patrick Roy suggested criminal charges could eventually follow.
"I'm not sure how long I will be away from the game. I have suffered a traumatic brain injury, I've lost a few teeth and I feel very tired….I'm a winner, I'm a warrior and I will try and come back as soon as I can," Tam said, determined to brave the odds.
Tam said he saw the video of the hit but the Rempart organization has asked that he refrain from giving any comments about the incident. Yesterday team president Claude Rouleau kept the news conference under tight wrap asking reporters not to ask specific questions about the incident and the possible legal action.
Tam will undergo further medical examinations next week. Team therapist Philippe Fait explained that Tam suffered a severe head injury and that it will take time to fully diagnose the impact.
"We can't say in the short term what the after-effects will be. The important thing is to rest and to be closely followed by the doctors," Mr. Fait said. 'Right now he is really tired bu8t he has no headaches and he's not dizzy and that's a good thing."
Cormier has been suspended since the incident. On Monday the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League will decide what sanctions should be taken against Cormier, which may include a suspension for the remainder of the year.
In an interview with RDS, who caught up to him at a team workout in St. Hyacinthe, Que., on Thursday, Cormier was remorseful.
"I never had the intention of hurting anyone, but I'm not going to sit here and say I didn't do anything," he said. "You can clearly see that it was an elbow. But it was a reflex. I was only trying to check him. I never had it in my mind to hit Mikael in the head."
The 19-year-old native of Cap Pelé, N.B., also said that he tried several times to reach Tam to check on his health and to wish him well.
"I wanted to know how he's doing. I want him to know that I've been thinking about him a lot," he told the network.
The Rempart organization confirmed Friday that Cormier had attempted to speak to Tam but that the team thought it best not to have a one on one conversion between the two players at this stage. "When it will take place, it will remain confidential," Mr. Rousseau insisted.
The incident with Tam marked the third time in just under a month that Cormier, who is known as a rugged, hard-nosed player, has provoked controversy. In the lead-up to the World Juniors last December, he elbowed a Swedish player in the face as the two were leaving the ice - the player wasn't badly hurt and Cormier went unpunished by the referees - and in another exhibition game two days later, leveled a Finnish opponent under similar circumstances.
Though Cormier was among the 10 most penalized players in the QMJHL last season, he does not have a long history of suspensions
Cormier was chosen in the second round of the 2008 NHL draft by the New Jersey Devils, and signed a three-year entry level contract with the team last summer. If, as expected, he faces a lengthy ban from the QMJHL - in theory he is eligible to return next season - Cormier could opt to turn pro and report to New Jersey's minor league affiliate, although he likely wouldn't be permitted to play until his QMJHL suspension ends.