Blount: Tears, cheers and a little light for U women's goalie

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 28, 2012 - 7:03 AM

A concussion ended Alyssa Grogan's career, but not before a few final moments on the ice.

Alyssa Grogan

Photo: Jerry E Lee, Jerry E. Lee

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Through the course of a normal day, a span of 9.8 seconds rarely seems significant. Most people take more time than that to pick out the shirt they're going to wear, or to decide whether they want pretzels or chips from the vending machine.

But when a part of a person's life has gone dark, 9.8 seconds of light can create enough brightness to last a lifetime. Gophers goaltender Alyssa Grogan was allowed that tiny slice of time in the net on Feb. 18, as a spontaneous, thoroughly unexpected gift from coach Brad Frost. That was all she needed to give her hockey career a proper farewell, with the help of 2,157 overjoyed fans at Ridder Arena.

Grogan, a senior, suffered a severe concussion in practice 16 months ago. She was told on Nov. 30 that she would never be able to play contact sports again. Though she was resigned to leaving the game on that sad, sour note, Frost put her in for the final seconds of a 5-2 victory over North Dakota, ensuring her last day of hockey would be her best rather than her worst.

As Grogan took her place in goal, her parents and teammates -- and a few random strangers -- wept. Amid a deafening ovation, 16 months of pain and frustration gave way to a blissful bit of a minute that will stay with her forever.

"When you're told you'll never play again and you're given 9.8 seconds, it's way more than you could ever ask for,'' said Grogan, an Eagan native who compiled a 1.97 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 38 career games. "No matter how small it was, I'm very grateful for it.

"To be out there again with the seniors was really cool. It's something I'll never forget.''

Grogan said the same about Oct. 18, 2010, the day she was hurt. During a race-to-the-puck drill, she dived to poke-check the puck away from a skater, whose knee crashed into Grogan's forehead. Another player fell onto the back of her head.

Grogan remained conscious, but she was so disoriented that Frost sent her off the ice and called for a doctor. She fell asleep three times in the hour after the injury; over the next six weeks, she slept 20 hours a day. When she was awake, she experienced severe headaches and could not focus her eyes.

Though she was halfway through the semester, Grogan had to drop all her classes, because she couldn't read. Her senses were easily overwhelmed by light and motion and large groups of people, so she couldn't go to games or go out with friends. Her symptoms worsened every time she tried to exercise.

"This is not something I would wish on my worst enemy,'' Grogan said. "It's a terrible, emotional thing that affects your whole life. And it's very humbling. Things like working out and hanging out with your friends, you realize how blessed you are to be able to do that -- and how tough it is to have that taken away.''

Grogan returned to school last spring, but she could only take a light class load, and she needed assistance because of her vision problems. She worked diligently on her recovery and remained optimistic, even as her return to hockey seemed more and more unlikely. That hope was extinguished last fall after a visit to noted concussion specialist Michael Collins in Pittsburgh.

She remained on the roster and became the analyst for the Gophers' radio broadcasts. On Senior Day, Grogan sat on the bench in uniform for the first time since her injury. Frost had no plans to play her -- but with a three-goal lead, fewer than 10 seconds left and a faceoff at the other end of the ice, he seized the moment.

As she stepped onto the ice, Grogan felt the tears well in her eyes. Her mother, Karla, who didn't immediately realize what was happening, was overcome when she did.

"I started jumping like I'd won a million dollars,'' she said. "When Alyssa turned up to look at us, I could see her grinning ear-to-ear through her mask. That 9.8 seconds was all we needed to have some closure.''

This semester, Grogan is back in school full time for the first time since her injury. She is able to read more and do some light workouts, and for the first time in 15 months, she has enjoyed some headache-free days. Her doctors, she said, have assured her she will fully regain her ability to do day-to-day activities.

Karla Grogan said her family now views time in a different way. It may not seem like much in the grand scheme of life, but to Alyssa and the people who love her, 9.8 seconds made all the difference.

"Every time I think about it, I tear up,'' Alyssa said. "It was just a few seconds. But when I was out there, it felt like a really long time.''

Rachel Blount • rblount@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto 2 Top 8th Inning
Baltimore 5
Washington 4 Bottom 8th Inning
Atlanta 0
Miami 5 Top 8th Inning
NY Mets 5
NY Yankees 0 Bottom 7th Inning
Tampa Bay 0
Cincinnati 0 Bottom 6th Inning
Chicago Cubs 0
Chicago WSox 3 Top 6th Inning
Kansas City 0
Cleveland 1 Top 6th Inning
Houston 2
Detroit 6 Bottom 6th Inning
Minnesota 1
Los Angeles 2 Top 4th Inning
Colorado 2
San Francisco 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Arizona 0
Seattle - H. Iwakuma 9:05 PM
LA Angels - M. Shoemaker
Philadelphia - J. Williams 9:10 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Philadelphia 6 2nd Qtr 1:13
Indianapolis 17
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Montreal 16 FINAL
Edmonton 33
Toronto 33 FINAL
Calgary 40
Winnipeg 9 FINAL
Brt Columbia 26
Saskatchewan 3 FINAL
Hamilton 28
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close