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Leafs' Bozak concerned about NCAA teammate with broken neck

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The Canadian Press
11/2/2010 1:35:28 PM
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TORONTO -- It didn't take very long for news of NCAA hockey player Jesse Martin's serious neck injury to reach the Toronto Maple Leafs dressing room.

Former University of Denver teammate Tyler Bozak had several messages on his phone after Toronto's game against the New York Rangers on Saturday night.

Bozak immediately went to a computer to see a replay of what happened to his good friend only hours earlier. Martin, an Edmonton native, suffered three fractures to his C2 vertabrae after getting hit by North Dakota's Brad Malone.

"It was tough for me to watch," Bozak said Tuesday. "You never want to see something like that, especially on one of your good buddies."

Martin was knocked unconscious by the force of the hit and initially thought he might be paralyzed. He's since regained feeling in his arms and legs and remains hospitalized in Minneapolis.

Bozak and Martin were both freshmen at Denver in 2007 and even spent some time rooming together in a hotel over the Christmas break. They've remained in touch and saw one another in the summer.

The injury has clearly hit Bozak hard.

"I've sent him a few messages," he said. "I don't think he's able to talk on the phone too much right now, I haven't been able to speak to him personally. But I was able to talk to his girlfriend a bit and just see how he's doing.

"I'm just thinking about him and praying for him. He's a great kid and a strong kid."

While there didn't appear to be any malicious intent on the play, Malone could face a possible suspension because the NCAA has vowed to crack down on hits to the head. A spokesman for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association said Tuesday that the incident is still under review.

Martin was carrying the puck with his head down slightly when Malone hit him straight on with a hard check. The two players have since spoken about the incident, according to Bozak.

"Malone was struggling a bit knowing what happened," said Bozak. "Jesse's a classy guy, he called him and said `Don't worry about it, no hard feelings, it wasn't that bad.'

"I think it was just kind of a freak accident."

Martin was a seventh-round draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006 and attended the NHL team's prospect camp over the summer. He'll miss the rest of the collegiate season.

Some of his other former teammates with the Pioneers include Ottawa Senators prospect Patrick Wiercioch and Boston Bruins prospect Joe Colborne.

Even after moving on to the Maple Leafs, Bozak has kept close tabs on what is happening in Denver.

"Whenever I get a chance to watch them play on a weekend -- when we don't have a game -- I'll watch online or wherever I can," he said. "I'd be a senior there right now so a lot of my good friends still do go there. Even younger guys that I didn't go there with, I get a chance to meet in the summer and train and skate with them.

"Everyone within the team there stays really close."

Tyler Bozak (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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