VADNAIS HEIGHTS, Minn. (FOX 9) - Prayers and well wishes are pouring in for a prep hockey player seriously injured over the weekend in a varsity pre-season scrimmage.
The incident occurred in Vadnais Heights as Academy of Holy Angels senior co-captain Mason Garcia lay motionless on the ice for more than 15 minutes, according to witnesses. His family reports, Garcia suffered a traumatic brain injury from a hit into the glass.
On Monday, there was positive news on the health front. Regions Hospital officially upgraded Garcia’s condition to fair.
In addition, his coach told FOX 9 that Garcia was transferred out of the Intensive Care Unit, and was "moving his arms and legs some."
In the meantime, his team formally gathered for the very first time since Saturday’s trauma with a Monday evening practice at their home rink at the Richfield Ice Arena. His teammates have vowed to dedicate everything they do out on the ice to their hospitalized team leader this season.
"Honestly, my hope for him is that he gets back to full health as fast as he can," said fellow Holy Angels co-captain Henry Lechner.
Lechner explained, one of the primary reasons he goes to the school and skates for the Stars is his relationship with #15.
Garcia is known as "Dad" around the locker room because of his leadership, and helped recruit Lechner to the hockey program. Now, Lechner and the rest of his teammates are praying for a speedy recovery for the standout student-athlete and two-sport captain. He also leads the Stars baseball team.
"He was kind of down for a couple of minutes and I realized that it was a little bit more serious," Lechner told FOX 9. "I went out there and kind of just sat with all my teammates and just took a knee and kind of as it got worse and worse, we kind of did a team prayer."
"I have jumped over that board a thousand times," said head hockey coach Patrick Griswold. "And, you know, every single time, it's, we have gotten the kid up, and gotten off the ice. They are either scared or you know, I have had kids have broken bones, but nothing like this."
Griswold called the scene surreal as the arena fell deafeningly silent, with only the sobs and tears of players on both teams as everyone feared the worst.
But by Monday, Garcia’s condition had improved.
His condition was upgraded to fair with news he was moving his arms and legs. He also told his coach in a lighter moment that his goal now is to get back on the ice by early March, in time for the state tournament.
"So, that is his mindset and that is what’s going to power him through," added the coach. "And it's just to see the innocence. Like, we all call him ‘dad’ and how mature he is and whatnot. But you still see the innocence of a kid there, too. So, it was pretty cool. It inspired a little bit, and it kind of cracked the room up a little bit as well, too."
Said Lechner, "He is one of those type of people. He cares more about others than himself. And he just realizes that this is a little step in the road and he wants us to focus on our task at hand, which is winning state. And obviously we cannot just forget about him. So, we are going to use him as motivation and fuel."
Griswold reported Garcia had recently recovered and returned to the ice from a concussion when this injury happened, and his head hit the glass on the hit against Lakeville South. Sources in the arena said the hit did not appear malicious.
In an amazing outpouring of support, a GoFundMe page to help with medical expenses and family needs topped $30,000 raised in a single 24-hour period.
The Stars first regular season game is Friday against Shakopee.