Florida Panthers forward Richard Zednik and his wife, Jessica, center, pose with Dr. Sonya Noor.
From Buffalo News, Feb.16, 2008:
She had been home for 10 minutes when the telephone rang. It was injured left wing Jozef Stumpel, a good friend who didn’t make the road trip with the Panthers. He asked Jessica if she was watching the game. No, she said. He told her to sit down. This was serious. Richard had an accident during the Buffalo game. His carotid artery had been severed.
Jessica Zednik immediately thought the worst. Severed artery meant death. She was going to lose her Slovak husband in Buffalo, making her a young widow and leaving Ella without a father. In an instant, what seemed a charmed life had been flipped upside down.
“All I heard was, ‘Your husband had a really bad accident. His throat was slashed.’ And then it was total panic. I’ve never seen that happen in life. I imagined what I saw in movies. They said, ‘major artery,’ and I didn’t think he was going to make it. I was panicking and screaming and crying.
“So many thoughts go into your head. You think, ‘I didn’t get to have another baby yet. I’ll always be alone. Please give him another chance. Why him? Why him?’ ”
Jessica was instructed to get to the airport for a charter to Buffalo to be with her husband. She packed her bags and made arrangements for someone to stay with Ella, who had no idea her daddy’s life was in danger.
The thought of having someone else drive her to the airport never crossed her mind. She threw her suitcase in the car and began speeding toward the airport, driving more than 100 mph and ignoring police on the way. What could they do, give her a ticket? First, they had to catch her. “Now, when I think back,” she said. “I don’t even remember seeing the road.”
Jessica was raised in Montreal, a hockey city. She is an actress and mother who bears a striking resemblance to actress Eva Longoria. She speaks French, English, Spanish, Italian and Slovakian, a bright woman many would envy on most levels.
“I was so scared of seeing his face,” Jessica said. “I was so afraid to see the panic in his eyes. He’s a father. I can’t imagine him thinking, ‘I can’t die, I can’t die, I have to see Ella growing up.’ He’s such a strong man. Just seeing him like a little boy . . . was too much.”
- Mats Sundin once played with Bengt Akerblom, who had his throat slashed by a skate blade in '95 and died after a Swedish exhibition game. Neck guards became mandatory for a time, although Sundin doesn't think the NHL should legislate it. "It might inhibit the breathing of some players," he said.