With one hurt, hockey world rallies

10/18/2013 - NHL

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. -- The door closed on the black SUV and there was silence. Still, so much to process.

It was suggested to David Moss, a forward with the Phoenix Coyotes, that the afternoon quickly put things in perspective. He nodded.

"It's just a game," he answered quietly, the stresses of his life taking a backseat as the vehicle pulled away from the hospital.

Five days earlier at an ice rink in Farmington Hills, Matt Sorisho, a senior at Novi's Detroit Catholic Central High School, was skating down the ice with the puck.

His mother, running a few minutes late to the game, was setting down a blanket in the stands when her son flew by, beating the opposing defenseman. He got off a shot and then was hit. His body went spinning, then he crashed into the boards. His back hit first.

Debbie Sorisho, Matt's mother, uses her whole body to tell the story, twisting the way Matt twisted, showing exactly where he hit the boards.

"He screamed immediately, 'My legs!'" Debbie said from the waiting room of Botsford Hospital on Wednesday where her son is recovering. "I knew. I knew."

She noticed his teammates left the ice on a line change seconds earlier and can't help but wonder how things would be different if he joined them.

"Had he just skated off," she said, her voice trailing. "Had he just skated off."

In one life-changing moment, Matt broke his back in two places and severed his spinal cord. He is paralyzed from the waist down.

Moss, a former Catholic Central student, heard the news on Twitter from his old hockey coach and happened to have a practice day in Detroit this week before playing the Red Wings on Thursday night. Moss grabbed one of his black sticks and had teammates fill it with signatures. He asked Coyotes PR staffer Chris Wojcik to arrange a ride to the hospital and on a crisp, fall Michigan day made the 25-minute trip out to the hospital. There was never any doubt this is how he would spend one of the few off-days during a grueling early-season Coyotes schedule, and he wanted to do it in the least obtrusive way possible, declining a request from a Phoenix media outlet for cameras to join him.

"That's how the hockey world is," Moss said on the drive there. "People really care."

This wasn't the normal prearranged athlete visiting someone in the hospital. This was one hockey brother, a CC brother, reaching out to another.

Moss went to the front desk at the hospital and said he would like to visit Sorisho.

"I'm going to have to call the nurses station," the receptionist informed him.

Minutes later, after punching a few numbers into a phone on the wall, Moss was in. Sitting in the corner of the room, Matt's grandfather Brian Sinclair stood up to greet Moss. The wall was covered with well-wishes, including one crayon-drawn Catholic Central hockey logo. A dry-erase board had the rules of the room, including the daily exercises Matt was expected to do. Heel stretches. Leg lifts. Move what he could move.

In the corner of the room a giant cardboard cutout of Chris Berman stood, rescued from a nearby Applebee's in an attempt to get a laugh out of Matt, a sports junkie.

"It made his day," his grandfather said with a smile.

In the center of the room, Matt rests on his back. A quilt lies over the hospital sheets for additional comfort.

Moss immediately walks over, hands him the black stick and introduces himself.

"Hi, I'm Dave," he says, reaching out to shake Matt's hand.

An introduction is made, and the conversation is easy. Moss asks about a couple of teachers they both had, and they compare favorites.

As if on cue, one of their teachers walks in holding a French book. She gives both Moss and Sorisho a hug and drops off the book, plus Airheads wrapped in blue ribbon. It's the candy she always gives out in class.

"Here's some light French reading because I know you miss that," she jokes.

The support from the school and the hockey community has been overwhelming, Sorisho's grandfather and father Jim agree.

Their refrigerator at home is filled with food. Contractors have already been out to the house to figure out what changes need to be made to accommodate a wheelchair. Close friend Parker Schmitt visits two or three times daily.

Sorisho is planning to attend Michigan State, and hockey coach Tom Anastos has already promised him a position with the team in any capacity. There's also an autographed Spartans hockey jersey from the 2007 national championship team in the hospital room, along with an autographed Henrik Zetterberg jersey.

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, whose son once played on a line with Matt at Catholic Central, has made multiple visits. In typical Babcock fashion, he isn't looking back at what happened but instead looking forward to what's next for Sorisho.

"He still can have a significant impact on the community and be a significant leader," Babcock said. "Now, it's time for him to grab his life back."

While others nurture, Babcock is pushing.

"He's like the general," Matt's grandfather said. "'Have you done this? Have you done that?'"

It's how the hockey world operates. It doesn't matter that this was a 17-year-old kid playing a game far from the NHL. Once he went down, everyone immediately rallied around him. He has a job waiting at Michigan State. He has an NHL coach giving out instructions. And right now, an NHL player offering his support.

Before Moss leaves, he gives Matt his cell number with instructions. Call. Text. If there's anything you want from anyone in the league, say it.

"Just know that we're there for you," Moss says.

Sorisho's father walks to the side of the bed and puts his hands on the rails. He speaks about the overwhelming support, his eyes momentarily welling up. None of this is easy, even with all the help. Still, he knows his son will get through it.

"It's tough," his dad says. "But he's strong as a bull. He'll get there. He's my kid. I know."

Matthew Sorisho's family and friends are uniting to raise money to help with the cost associated with his hockey related spinal cord injury. If you would like to contribute, visit the Matthew Sorisho Hockey Injury Fund website.