There is no glossing over the challenge Neil Doef might face in the months, and years, ahead. Nor is there any way to really sum up how sad it is for the family of the promising Smiths Falls Bears star to have a career milestone, representing Canada at the World Junior A Challenge, turn into a nightmare right at Christmastime.
The 17-year-old Doef was seriously injured on Sunday while playing for Canada East at the tournament in Kindersley, Sask., when he "went hard into the boards" after being checked by a Team Switzerland player. Doef needed to be stretchered off the ice and taken to Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon for surgery. Footage of Doef's injury aired by CTV Ottawa on its Tuesday newscast exacerbated the worst fears about a life-altering outcome, although the exact nature of the teen's condition is being carefully guarded. (Doef is a minor and his parents, Bobbi-Jean and Bruce Doef, have asked for the public to respect their privacy.)
The silver lining in a very dark cloud is seeing how quickly people involved in hockey have already rallied to comfort the afflicted.
A Do It For Doef donation page set up at FundRazr has already collected nearly $3,000 in donations in fewer than 18 hours since being created. The Bears, who play in the Ottawa-area Central Canada Hockey League, have also set up a trust fund with Scotiabank; donations can be given at any branch.
What makes this even sadder is that this is someone who was doing the right way.
The developmental hockey world is rife with seemingly transient, here-today-gone-tomorrow, rootless players who are birds on a wire, being pulled in all directions in the name of better competition. They get out in the community, but they are only passing through, ultimately.
Doef was playing for his hometown Bears and attending high school Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute, all with designs on joining Princeton in two seasons' time. He was rooted and thriving on the ice with 16 goals and 45 points across 34 games this season in a strong Junior A circuit.
One hopes for the best possible outcome for Neil Doef, even if it turns out not to include junior and college hockey. It is good to see how fast people respond while presented with the prospect of a dire outcome.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.