Vernon Hills High School hockey player hospitalized after illegal hit

October 24, 2013 (VERNON HILLS, Ill.)

It happened during a hit in a game in Vernon Hills last weekend. The hockey association is looking into his injury.

That player spent hours in surgery on Wednesday and has months of rehab ahead of him. The illegal hit that landed him in the hospital got the opposing player ejected.

Lying on his hospital bed, 16-year-old Michael Spinell has had plenty of time to think.

"I feel very lucky that nothing happened to my spinal cord, and I'm not paralyzed or anything," said Michael Spinell, injured hockey player.

The Vernon Hills High School junior got the scare of his life after being checked into the boards during a hockey game on Saturday.

"Right on impact I knew I broke my back, but I just laid there and took deep breaths and waited for the ambulance to arrive," said Spinell.

"I just started pounding on the glass. Don't move him. Don't move him. And they didn't. They didn't, um. . . You just start praying right away and hoping he's going to be, he's going to be okay," said Susan Spinell, mother.

Doctors at Lurie Children's Hospital say Spinell is going to be okay, despite two fractured vertebrae that required three hours of surgery.

"My grandpa who passed away last year, I think he was definitely watching over me through all this," said Micheal Spinell.

Spinell's injury comes as youth hockey attempts to reduce the amount of dangerous contact, in part because of a rise in reported concussions.

Two years ago, the sport's national governing body banned body checking for players under 13. And over the summer, it tightened rules on boarding-- the type of hit that injured spinell.

"All sports have risk and participating in them. The only thing it does is make you more aware because you don't think it's going to happen to you and your family," said Steve Spinell, father.

Marc Kapsalis is a Spinell family friend and hockey coach, and over the last four years has partnered with the developer of the NASCAR safety wall to market a similar wall for ice rinks that offers more give.

"We've reduced the amount of force to the body by 50-percent or more," said Marc Kapsalis, president, Team Illinois.

Despite his injury, Spinell hopes to one day play again.

"I'm just going to deal with what's happened and get better and move on," said Michael Spinell.

The Illinois Hockey Association is reportedly looking into the play that injured Spinell, who says he holds no ill will toward the opposing player who was ejected. Spinell says he's been contacted by that player, who feels terrible about what happened.

For additional information on the safety wall, e-mail Marc Kapsalis at

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