Johnson: Kootenay Ice buoyed by teammate’s improvement in battle against meningitis
Tim Bozon alert and trying to talk and well aware of his squad’s match against Calgary in the first round of the WHL playoffs
Tim Bozon, the 64th overall pick by the Montreal Canadiens in 2012, is showing signs of improvement in his battle back from a meningitis scare. And that has buoyed his Kootenay Ice teammates as they take on the Calgary Hitmen in the first round of the Western Hockey League playoffs.
Photograph by: Gregory Shamus, NHLI via Getty Images
The news from Royal University Hospital was enough to make hearts leap, spirits soar. Better, even, than an OT playoff winner.
Tim Bozon has awoken from an induced coma, been moved out of intensive care and off the critical list, now listed as “stable,” according to a news release from the Saskatoon Health Region.
He’s alert, sitting up in bed and trying to talk.
Here, 530 kilometres away, the rest of the Kootenay Ice were trying to prepare for their WHL opening-round playoff series against the favoured Calgary Hitmen, buoyed by the improvement shown by their stricken teammate.
“It’s awesome to hear,” said the Ice’s star centreman Sam Reinhart, nine or so hours before puck drop on Game 1 at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “Obviously these have been a scary couple of weeks. But there’s been a lot of good news in the last couple of days. For that, we’re so thankful.
“Cory (athletic therapist Cameron) was able to go there for a day and visit with him. He brought back the best news possible, telling us how much he’s fighting every minute of every day. It’s definitely motivating, to see how he’s battling through all that.
“We’ve all been thinking about him.
“Hopefully he’ll be able to communicate in the next couple of days.”
On March 1st, the day after scoring a goal against the hometown Saskatoon Blades at Credit Union Centre, Bozon, the 64th overall pick by Montreal in the 2012 draft, was admitted to Royal University and diagnosed with a case of bacterial meningitis — an inflammation of tissue around the brain and spine, which, in severe cases can be fatal.
Doctors induced the coma in an effort to reduce the swelling of the membranes around his brain, and have been slowly waking him over the past few days.
“Every day,” said Kootenay coach Ryan McGill, “we’ve seen some improvement. It’s baby steps with him. He’s been up, moving . . . not very much, but he’s been up out of his bed, which is a bonus. A real good sign.
“He isn’t talking yet, but he can understand commands and he’s mumbling some stuff, he’s trying to get words out. His personality is starting to come back. One of impatience, I’d wager. As far away from the situation as we are, it’s kinda nice to hear those things. He’s just such a vibrant kid, he’s got that zest for life, so it’s great to see and hear that those things are happening.
“It’s gonna be a long road. We understand that. He understands that. It’s not gonna be a quick fix.
“That said, we’re so happy that every day he’s making strides and, in spirit, he’s with us here.”
Bozon is a highly-regarded third-rounder by the Habs, scoring 33 goals and 69 points in 63 games this season.
His father Philippe — who played in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues and is now head coach of the French national junior team — and mother Helene arrived from their home in France the day after he was admitted to hospital. The WHL has established a trust fund to assist his family with medical and rehabilitation costs.
“Being healthy, stuff like that, is obviously the most important thing,” said Reinhart. “Sometimes you don’t think about that; sometimes you just, I don’t know, take it for granted, I guess. But when things like this happen, we all pull for one another, for everyone’s well-being. It’s definitely disheartening to see anyone, especially friends, teammates, struggling with their health like that. But the way he’s come back, the fight he’s showing, is really inspirational.
“Tim wants us to win, play hard, more than anyone. That’s definitely something to take into our locker-room, to come out and give everything we’ve got.
“He’s definitely aware, that’s for sure. He’s aware of how we’re doing night in, night out. His reaction is going to be more positive when we’re doing well. Which only pushes us harder. And that’s definitely motivating.”
These have been a difficult few weeks for the hockey community. This frightening incident, involving the 19-year-old Bozon. Twenty-year-old Saginaw Spirits’ forward Terry Trafford, a victim of self-inflicted asphyxiation. Here at home, the tragic death of Matt and Katie Stajan’s infant son. The Rich Peverley irregular-heartbeat collapse on the bench in Dallas.
“For adults, these are very difficult situations to digest,” reminded Ryan McGill. “But we’re talking about kids here, remember. Teenagers. So it’s a lot to ask.
“Timmy’s parents are going through an awful lot right now. Timmy’s going through an awful lot. And these kids are going through an awful lot. Their focus around the rink has been great, though, and we’ll try to continue that.
“We’re all definitely feeling better today, hearing the news that there’s been improvement. Knowing that Tim’s going to battle in his way and we’re going to battle in our way, for him.”
George Johnson is the Herald’s sports columnist. E-mail him at email@example.com
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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