Ondrej Pavelec returns to practice

Updated: October 19, 2010, 4:46 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

DULUTH, Ga. -- Atlanta Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec would like to tell you what happened on opening night when he collapsed in a heap on the ice.

The problem is the 23-year-old native of Kladno in the Czech Republic recalls nothing of his collapse 2:25 into the Thrashers' home opener Oct. 8. Nothing.

Pavelec I would like to tell you but I don't remember. The last thing I remember is the national anthem ... and then I woke up in the ambulance.

-- Ondrej Pavelec

"I would like to tell you but I don't remember. The last thing I remember is the national anthem ... and then I woke up in the ambulance," Pavelec told reporters Tuesday after he returned to practice for the first time since the incident.

"Pretty big window. I would like to tell you but I don't know," the netminder said.

He's not alone in wanting to find out exactly what happened.

When he first regained consciousness in the ambulance after team trainers and doctors worked feverishly on the ice to tend to him, Pavelec said his legs were numb.

"I couldn't feel my legs. So I was a little bit worried what happened. But when I get to the hospital I started to feel my legs and the doctors told me what happened. And after those tests in the hospital right away they tell me I'm going to be fine," Pavelec said.

Videotape of the incident shows the Thrashers preparing for an offensive zone face-off against the Washington Capitals. And then the camera pans to Pavelec lying on the ice.

"I can remember the face-off in the offensive zone. I was trying to see who they had. Did I want to make a change? What about the face-off match-up could we win this draw and then commotion and there the boy was laying out," head coach Craig Ramsay recalled Tuesday.

"I thought our people got to him quickly and did a good job with a difficult situation," the coach said.

Apparently Pavelec did motion to the bench for assistance but he doesn't recall even that.

"I saw the film after that happened and I should feel something wrong because I was kind of skate to the bench and try to tell the guys that something's wrong but I don't remember," he said. "I just saw the film."

A battery of tests came up with the conclusion that Pavelec suffered from neurocardiogenic syncope. In short, he fainted.

Why? That remains a mystery as Pavelec said there is no history of such a condition in his family. He reported never having had a similar experience previous to this one.

"No, they did all testing for my brain and my heart and what the doctor said, I'm not a doctor, but they said, I just faint," Pavelec said.

"It's nothing serious and hopefully it'll never happen again and like I said they said I'm ready to go," he said.

The news that Pavelec has been cleared for a return to action is welcome news to his teammates as well as family and friends.

Initial reports back in the Czech Republic simply showed the dramatic videotape of Pavelec on the ice. Some reports said he was on life-support systems. But he was quickly able to call his family (his mother is a nurse) and tell them he wasn't in any grave danger once he reached hospital. They will be visiting on a previously planned trip to Atlanta in a couple of weeks.

What may be more problematic for the young netminder, who was slated to share goaltending duties in Atlanta this season with veteran Chris Mason, was the concussion he sustained when he bonked his head on the ice after fainting.

It was, he said, the fourth and most severe concussion of his career.

Still, after working out for about 30 minutes Tuesday, Pavelec said he feels great and will continue to try and get back into game shape. He's also having to break in a new chest protector and pants after a much-loved set of equipment had to be cut away by emergency medical personnel.

"That's the biggest problem right now," he said with a smile.

Ramsay said the netminder will have to get himself ready both mentally and physically before returning to the Thrashers' goal.

He will have to "fight through some demons having missed the start," Ramsay said.

"His job will be to push, push and when he's ready and when he really feels physically fit then we'll analyze whatever situation develops," the coach said.

Ramsay, a longtime coach and player, said he's never seen anything quite like Pavelec's collapse.

"It's only been 40 years so it's not like I've been around a long time. No that would be a first. Never quite seen that, strange ones but not that one. No. And I don't want to see it again," Ramsay said.

Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.

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