NEW YORK Florida Panthers forward Richard Zednik was in stable condition in hospital on Monday following emergency surgery after his neck was slashed by a team mate's skate during Sunday's defeat by the Buffalo Sabres.
The arena fell silent midway through the final period of the Sabres' 5-3 home win when Zednik was cut across the neck by Olli Jokinen's skate after Jokinen had been tripped up coming out of the Buffalo zone.
A shocked Zednik clutched his neck as blood gushed from the cut on to the ice while he sped towards the bench and trainers rushed to his aid.
Quick action by team trainers and arena medical staff likely saved Zednik's life as they stabilized the player and rushed him to Buffalo Memorial Hospital, said Panthers general manager Jacques Martin.
"It's something you never wish to see," Martin said on the team's Web site (panthers.nhl.com). "Hopefully, he'll be all right.
"The fact he came over (to) the bench, didn't waste any time, probably allowed our trainer to give him attention.
"I thought the medical team in Buffalo was quick to react. As soon as he got to the dressing room, I think they were able to stabilize him and stop the bleeding, which was crucial."
The scene left players, coaches and fans in shock as they watched the ice being cleaned up.
According to media reports, referee Bill McCreary considered postponing the game but after meeting both coaches decided to play the final minutes of the contest after they were informed Zednik was in stable condition.
"I think we were all in shock, everyone was in shock," a subdued Jokinen told reporters. "I've never seen anything like that. It's tough to focus on hockey after that.
"It was terrifying."
Zednik will remain in the Buffalo hospital until he is stable enough to return to Florida. The 32-year-old Slovak had scored six goals in the last four games.
"When I first saw it, it was utter disbelief. I saw him coming towards the bench with a trail of thick blood behind him and I couldn't realize how bad it was," said Panthers defenseman Bryan Allen. "I was in shock, I couldn't imagine what he was going through."
(Writing by Steve Keating; Editing by Sonia Oxley)