Milton Academy senior Jake Thibeault was left paralyzed from the waist down after an accident during the Eastern Alliance Kickoff tournament hockey game Saturday in Hopedale, Massachusetts.
The 18-year-old suffered spine fractures and a mild brain hemorrhage and is being treated at UMass Memorial Medical Center.
It’s the worst news Jake's father Mike Thibeault has ever heard. His son, a rising hockey star, will likely not walk again.
“Chances are very slim given the nature of his injury and Jake simply said, ‘Well, I’m ready to fight,’” Mike Thibeault recalled Monday.
Thibeault’s fighting spirit was left unbroken. It's a spirit that was nurtured throughout his life growing up playing hockey and living on a farm, his father said.
Bishop Feehan Injured Hockey Player
The high school athlete was slammed against the ice rink boards by a player on the opposite team. It's a common move in hockey -- one that Mike Thibeault said his son has suffered many times before -- but this time it was different.
“When he collapsed to the ice, it was right in front of me, literally a foot away from the other side of the glass, I just happen to be standing there,” Mike Thibeault said. “I haven’t been able to keep my eyes closed for long since to shake that image.”
Mike Thibeault, his wife and eldest son have been at Jake's bedside since, trying to keep each other in high spirits.
“We all know the only way we’re going to get through this is relying on each other,” noted Jake's older brother Drew. “I feel like being the older brother, now I have my reason, like, my reason is him and I’m going to figure out what I need to do for him.”
Family, friends and the hockey community have come together and had raised over $170,000 by Monday night to help the Thibeaults with what is expected to be a long-term battle -- a battle that will test and be a testament to the young hockey player’s character.
“Jake being Jake simply said, ‘it’s a bump in the road. I’m going to get through this,’” Mike Thibeault shared. “I’m his dad, I have age and experience but I do not have the internal fortitude and character of my 18-year-old son to be able to sit there like that and be thinking about how you’re going to excel.”
Jake has already discussed the idea of becoming a sled skating Olympian with his long-time skating coach, in the event his hockey dreams don’t come to be.
On Tuesday, the Boston Bruins released a statement saying they are keeping Jake in their hearts.
"We offer our full support and well wishes to Jake, his family and the rest of the Milton Academy hockey community," the team said.