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Eric Nystrom, right

Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

Nystrom offers an apology and comes to own defense

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • October 1, 2011 - 8:33 PM

Saturday was a gut-wrenching day for Eric Nystrom.

Still sickened that he played a role in another hockey player shattering his leg during a race for an icing the night before, the Wild forward logged onto the Internet to find some followers of his Twitter account crucifying him.

''How does it feel being responsible for most likely ending a young player's career," one person asked @enystrom23.

''Are you serious? I am human and have a conscience. I feel so awful right now u don't even know," Nystrom replied.

Nystrom told another armchair basher, "I would switch places w taylor right now if I could."

That's when Nystrom drove to a St. Paul hospital, the same hospital he was turned away from the night before because Edmonton Oilers defenseman Taylor Fedun was being prepped for surgery.

Fedun shattered his right femur when Nystrom tried to negate an icing call by reaching for a puck. It appears Nystrom's stick blade got caught up in Fedun's skate blade.

Nystrom arrived with flowers, nervously knocked and spent 10 minutes alone with Fedun at his bedside.

Nystrom apologized and apologized and apologized.

"But no matter how many times I say sorry, he'll still be in the spot that he is," Nystrom said by phone Saturday. "It doesn't feel good to know that you're involved in something that hurt someone so seriously. But he really appreciated me stopping by, and I really appreciated him being so understanding."

As of now, it appears unlikely Nystrom will be suspended, although the league still wants to have a formal review process by looking for better video and talking to Fedun and Nystrom.

But after an initial look, the league was leaning toward deeming it an unfortunate accident. Video seems to show Nystrom making a play for the puck and actually doing his best to avoid contact.

"[The puck] was literally right there. I was like, 'I'm going to get this one,' " Nystrom said. "And then things happened in a split second."

Rule 81.1 states, "Any contact between opposing players while pursuing the puck on an icing must be for the sole purpose of playing the puck and not for eliminating the opponent from playing the puck."

In an earlier preseason game against St. Louis, Nystrom beat out an icing to create a forecheck.

"I've done it a thousand times in my career racing to beat an icing," he said. "That's just what you're taught to do -- to hustle and not give up on the play."

The horrible injury has once again put the NHL under the microscope for its controversial touch-icing rule. Many in and out of the sport have long called for the league to switch to no-touch or hybrid icing like other leagues.

"It's sad that somebody has to get hurt to talk about it, although we have been talking about it," Nystrom said. "Guys are just so fast now and so big that just racing like that is so dangerous. This is something that I'm sure will bring the conversation back to the table."

That won't help Fedun, though.

"I feel so bad for the kid, and that's what those people on Twitter don't get," Nystrom said. "People are 10 feet tall when they don't have anybody to answer to. They can say whatever they want, but sometimes people don't realize that we have hearts and souls, and we feel awful.

"I felt I could throw up all night yesterday and this morning. It's a bad, guilty feeling."

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