Mats Zuccarello’s days of fear and road to recovery

Zuccarello recovering (getty images)

Zuccarello recovering (getty images)

The pain of the Rangers losing in the Eastern Conference Final was terrible for fans and players alike. Although one Ranger was dealing with pain and fear on a completely different scale. TV2 in Norway provided excellent insight into the immediate days of terror Mats Zuccarello was dealing with after a slapshot fractured his skull.

“CLUNK!” That’s the sound Ryan McDonagh‘s shot made off the helmet of fellow teammate Zuccarello. The small winger with a huge heart was battling a Penguins defenseman in front and just was in the wrong place at the worst time.

Mats  Zuccarello injury (SN)

Mats Zuccarello injury (SN)


Zuccarello got back to the bench, likely on adrenaline only. When he was about to sit, the damage fully hit him. He looked spaced and appeared to be having difficulty collecting himself. Jim Ramsey immediately took him to the locker room where Zuccarello skated to on his own power. Most assumed concussion, but no one could know just how bad it was.

[su_quote cite=”Flag Lien, TV2″ url=”″]”When I got to the locker room I could not talk, and I did not really know what happened. When I got to the (hospital) I realized that it was serious and I was afraid. But they were very good at the hospital to assure me that I was going to get well”, Zuccarello explained.[/su_quote]

Once Mats went to the hospital, his mother Anita flew in to see her son. This was pretty serious. One of Zuccarello’s close friends, Glenn Jensen was informed his buddy was in bad shape. It wasn’t until they Skyped that Jensen felt that sick feeling in his stomach, the one you get when someone you care about is in trouble.

[su_quote cite=”Vittersø Kvamme, TV2″ url=”″]”At first I thought he kidding, he pulled a joke. Then I realized the seriousness, and there was nothing in particular. It’s pretty nasty to see people you care about getting hurt. I saw him in pain, and it was not fun to watch. One that tends to be so full of life and love to talk, was not so happy anymore”, says Jensen.[/su_quote]

Zuccarello at GM 5 (Photo: Josh Thompson)

Zuccarello at GM 5 (Photo: Josh Thompson)

Over the period of several days, Zuccarello had serious difficulty speaking and was having troubling feeling. The effects of the brain trauma were griping him with fear. The doctors continued to quell that fear by reassuring him that he would make a full recovery, but anyone would still be afraid while going through the experience.

After the season was over, Mats opened up about what happened to the press. “I got a fractured skull, and blood on the brain that made (me unable to) talk.” He continued to tell TV2 about his issues, “I also lost feeling in my arm and face. It was tough at first, and I was scared. I could not walk, or touch me on the first two or three weeks.”

As Zuccarello started recovering, he began to work with a speech therapist.  “I did not get out a few words (for) four to five days, but once the blood went out of the brain (my speech) came more and more back. It’s not one hundred percent yet, but it gets better and better”, Zuccarello told TV2.

During this time, his teammates not only had to deal with the pressures of the NHL Playoffs, but genuine concern for their friend. Chris Kreider summed it up on break up day, “It was real upsetting, but at the same time very inspirational and motivating to see him bounce back like he did.”

Now, Mats Zuccarello is back home feeling well and vacationing. Here’s even better news, on June 19th he will suit up and play in his Charity All Star Game in Norway. To make it sweeter, he will be joined by fellow Rangers, Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard, Kevin Hayes and best bud, Carl Hagelin.

So all is well that ends well, but for Mats Zuccarello this was a frightening experience he will never forget. One has to wonder will he ever be the same again? Will the player we all know and love return to form. Zucc’s style calls for him to zip in and out of high traffic areas. In order for him to be fully effective he will need to get back on the proverbial horse and do just that.

After watching Zuccarello over the last few years, his heart is so big and his courage is even bigger. He will be back. For now, his journey to being that player again will soon begin. It will start with the joy of skating alongside his close friends for the first time in two scary long months.



Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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