New Jersey Teenager Breaks Neck During High School Ice Hockey Game

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Mikey Nichols suffered a potentially paralyzing injury over the weekend but he's determined to skate again. Jen Maxfield reports from Morristown. (Published Tuesday, Jan 7, 2014)

    A 17-year-old high school ice hockey player from New Jersey is recovering in the hospital after breaking his neck when he was checked into the boards during a game over the weekend, and his family says he's doing well.

    Michael Nichols, a senior forward for the Falcons of Middlesex County's Monroe Township High School, had already scored one goal and had two assists when he raced for a loose puck during Saturday's game against Vernon. He took a shot and was checked into the wall from behind, causing him to smash headfirst into the boards, according to his family. 

    "He said, 'Dad, I can't feel anything,'" his father, Steven Nichols, said at the Morristown Memorial Hospital Monday. "And I went onto the ice and he had great spirits. He said, 'I was the best player on the ice tonight,' and I said, 'You were, son.' Next thing I knew, we were here."

    He was airlifted from the Skylands Ice World arena in Sussex County and taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a fracture to his C5 vertebrae. 

    Doctors stabilized Michael and performed surgery on his broken neck Sunday afternoon. They say it's too early to say whether he'll walk or skate again.

    But Michael is sure he will. His father recounted his son's words: "'Dad, that ice that I couldn't get up from the other night, I'm going back to it, I'm going to stand up on it.'"
    Steven Nichols added, "And I believe he will, and I believe a big part of the reason he will is because of the outpouring of support from everybody." 

    Twitter and Facebook have exploded with messages of support for Michael from family, friends, fans and hockey teams from other school districts across the state who are using the hashtag #prayformikey to rally for him. Former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed when he broke his neck during a game, has promised he will "reach out real soon." 

    The Nichols family said Michael is reading every message. 
    "Sometimes out of bad things, good things happen, and the good thing out of this is to know how much love has come Mikey's way. It's wonderful," said Steven Nichols. 
    Michael's mother, Christine, added tearfully, "We really, really appreciate it, and we need it." 

    According to the Falcons' website, Michael is a varsity alternate captain who has won awards for "intense consistent effort." 

    He tweeted the day of the game, "I'm a team player, if I win then we won, they gon put us all in the hall of fame when we done."


    Monroe Athletics Director Greg Beyer declined MyCentralJersey.com's request for comment.

    Michael is scheduled to graduate from Monroe Township High School this spring. 


    --Jen Maxfield contributed to this report.