ATLANTA – The scary collapse of Atlanta Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec in the season opener turned out to be a fainting spell.
The Thrashers said Monday preliminary tests on Pavelec showed he had a kind of episode that is described on the Mayo Clinic website as the most common cause of fainting, but he will undergo more tests as a precaution. Pavelec's worst injury was the concussion he received when he fell backward after fainting, striking his head on the ice just 2½ minutes into Friday night's 4-2 victory over the Washington Capitals.
If all the tests come back negative, he'll be cleared to play once he gets over his concussion symptoms, which include a headache.
The fall left him unconscious for at least 10 minutes. The 23-year-old goalie didn't come to until he was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.
"I want to thank all the doctors, trainers and emergency personnel who took such good care of me," Pavelec said in a statement. "I would also like to thank my teammates, all the fans and everyone in the hockey community who have reached out to me and offered their support and well-wishes over the last few days. I hope to be back in action as soon as possible."
Fainting spells can be caused by numerous factors, including prolonged standing, standing up very quickly or stress. The puck was in the Washington end of the ice and no one was around when the Atlanta goalie went down, and he had yet to face a shot on goal.
According to the Mayo Clinic, such episodes cause a sudden drop in heart rate and blood pressure, which reduces blood flow to the brain and can result in a brief loss of consciousness. While the condition is usually harmless and requires no treatment, "you can injure yourself," the clinic warns.
That's just what happened to Pavelec, who knocked himself unconscious when he fell back on the ice. While he was wearing a mask, there's not as much protection on the back of the head.
Pavelec spent two nights in the hospital undergoing a battery of tests on his heart and brain. No serious problems were found and he was released Sunday.
As a precaution, Pavelec is undergoing additional tests on his heart, as well as blood and genetic screening.
Even though they signed Chris Mason over the summer, the Thrashers believe Pavelec has the potential to develop into the sort of topflight goalie the team has lacked for its entire NHL history.
He signed a two-year deal over the summer after going 14-18-7 with a 3.29 goals-against average and two shutouts in 42 games last season, his first full year in the NHL. Pavelec also was a member of the Czech Republic's team at the Vancouver Olympics.
Mason has taken over as the No. 1 goalie for the Thrashers, who are on a four-game road trip after opening at home against the Capitals.