On September 18, a hockey parent’s worse nightmare unfolded. Alex Kupka, a 17 year old forward from Trnava, Slovakia, suffered a broken C2 vertebrae when he was checked into the boards, while his parents helplessly watched from thousands of miles away.
Alex was playing his first game with the St Cloud Blizzard of the North American Hockey League at the annual NAHL Showcase, in Blaine, Minnesota. A top prospect who had already garnered interest from some NCAA Division 1 schools, Kupka’s dreams of playing hockey in the United States were shattered in an instant.
As bad as the injury was, it could have been much worse. A fracture to the C2 vertebrae is often fatal or causes paralysis. Thanks to the response of the Blizzard Trainer, who held Alex’s head for nearly 30 minutes on the ice while waiting for the ambulance to arrive, Alex did not sustain damage to the spinal cord. “We’re very thankful and I would say that he had the hockey God’s on his side,” said Blizzard head coach and general manager Moe Mantha. “He walked out of the hospital.”
Kupka is in a halo brace vest, which prevents his head and neck from moving as his spinal column and ligaments heal. He is expected to remain in it for the next three months.
As lucky as Alex is, his family has been dealt a serious financial blow as well. The family was shocked to learn their health insurance would not cover hockey injuries. Thankfully, USA Hockey’s supplemental insurance has covered much of the cost but not all. The family is responsible for a large deductible as well as ongoing therapy treatments in addition to the costs associated with International travel for the parents. As any parent would, the Kupkas immediately flew to Minnesota to be at Alex’ side.
On behalf of the Kupka family, we have set up this GoFundMe page to help support Alex and his family with the expenses on his road to recovery.