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Associated Press, Published November 01 2010

College hockey: Injured Denver player improving

DENVER – Injured University of Denver forward Jesse Martin had feeling in all extremities and held no grudge against the North Dakota player who checked him, leading to a fractured vertebrae in his neck.

Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky said Monday that his player took a phone call from Fighting Sioux forward Brad Malone, and that Martin doesn’t “hold any ill will toward the young guy.”

Martin, a senior from Edmonton, Alberta, was hurt Saturday night when Malone’s shoulder rammed into Martin’s head as the Pioneers center glanced up the rink to make a pass out of his zone. Martin remained motionless on the ice for several minutes before he was taken away on a stretcher.

There was no penalty called on Malone at first, but officials eventually gave him a 5-minute charging penalty and a game misconduct.

“I don’t think it was flagrant. I don’t think it was malicious. I don’t think it was dirty,” Gwozdecky said. “But according to the rule book, that kind of hit to the head is a foul and it was penalized.”

Martin remains hospitalized in Minneapolis and Gwozdecky said they’re hoping “surgery will not be required.”

“His spirits are up,” Gwozdecky said.

Martin even fielded the phone call from Malone, a fourth-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 2007.

“From what I understand, Jesse is very forgiving and I’m sure it brings a sense of relief to the young man,” Gwozdecky said.

The Pioneers assembled in the locker room for a meeting before Monday’s practice. The knowledge that their teammate was mending reassured them.

“It’s good to know he has the kind of care he has and that everything can move forward,” defenseman Jon Cook said.

Martin, a draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers four years ago, was taken to a Grand Forks, N.D., hospital after the collision Saturday night and then airlifted to Minneapolis.

Before his teammates left, though, Cook had a chance to chat with Martin, who wanted to know all the details about the game as the Pioneers scored all three goals after he left for a 3-0 win.

“He was certainly in a lot of pain. But he was able to have good conversations with us,” Cook said. “And to see him moving his hands and toes (Saturday night) was a big-time relief for me, something I was able to tell the guys.”

Avalanche forward and former Pioneers standout Paul Stastny logged on to get a score from the game, only to be rattled by what he read.

Stastny has become friends with Martin.

“It’s scary that it’s someone you know, someone you play with in the summertime, you see all the time,” Stastny said after Avalanche practice Monday. “When that happens, it really hits you. It just shook me.”

Stastny called up the hit on the Internet, just to see what exactly took place. He said the shoulder-to-head collision that Malone delivered on Martin has become a “gray issue” in the NHL.

“It’s almost a vulnerable position – he was watching his pass. But at the same time it’s tough,” Stastny said. “You don’t blame anyone for that, because it’s hard to stop your momentum if you’re going into a straight line to hit someone. ... It’s not a dangerous hit. It’s dangerous that he hit the head.”