FRIDLEY, Minn. (KMSP) - A 20-year-old Minnesota hockey player has a tough road ahead of him, but he's getting lots of support from the local hockey community, including students and staff at Totino-Grace High School, his alma mater.
Isanti native Matt Olson was severely injured during a game two weeks ago with the Chicago Cougars, a U.S. Premier League hockey team. Olson’s skate caught an edge and he slid face first into the boards. Olson’s neck was broken, paralyzing him from the shoulders down. Right now, he's not breathing totally on his own.
Olson may have graduated two years ago from Totino-Grace --- but he clearly still has family there. Mark Loahr, his former Totino-Grace hockey coach, paid him a visit in his Chicago hospital room on Thursday.
Decked out in Olson’s junior hockey team colors of green and gold, Totino-Grace students are showing their support as he starts his long road to recovery.
“That's every parents, every coach, it's their worst nightmare to see them like that,” Loahr said.
But Loahr says the family is strong and looking forward to not dwelling on the past -- "I think the way they're starting to look at it is that everything happens for a reason and God has a plan for Matt and somehow there's going to be some good that's going to come out of it."
Loahr realized during his visit that finances are already becoming a concern. The family knows the insurance money will run out, but the bills will keep coming in. That's why Loahr is working hard to rally support.
“He is one of my kids, and I don't know, it's just what we need to do,” Loahr said.
The Totino-Grace hockey community surpassed their goal of raising $5,000 on Thursday and it seems that effort was just the beginning. His GoFundMe page has already raised more than $88,000.
“We're all a big community and when something bad like that happens we all just pull together and help each other out,” Jared Thienes, a Totino-Grace senior, said.
If you'd like to help there is a GoFundMe page, a table at the Let’s Play Hockey expo and several upcoming fundraisers.