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Hockey Community Rallies for Rogers Mite

By Minnesota Hockey, 01/10/22, 11:30AM CST


Every year during Hockey Week Across America, hockey communities around the country celebrate not only the game, but the people who make the game possible, including coaches and local hockey heroes. That celebration will take on a whole new meaning this year for those in the Rogers Youth Hockey Association, after a team of coaches and parents saved the life of a mite player.

Coach Ryan Johnson, who was the first to the player’s side, recalls the start of that momentous day and play clearly:

“One of the kids was going on a half-breakaway towards our goalie. Another kid kind of bumped into him from behind as the kid was shooting, and the momentum caused him to land on his butt. His blades kicked out and went right into the goalie. At first, I wasn’t super alarmed. I’ve seen that happen numerous times. Pretty much every mite game a kid slides into the goalie in some form, and this didn’t look like anything out of the ordinary.”

As Johnson helped the other players up and out of the net, he quickly noticed the goalie, DJ Kuhn, was bleeding and finding the source, it was clear the player was bleeding heavily. Johnson reacted immediately by applying pressure on the players leg and yelling for help.

Multiple parents rushed to assist. Thankfully, two of the parents, including one from visiting Champlin Park, were nurses by profession and calmly took charge. Within a couple of minutes, they had determined a tourniquet was needed and utilized a spectator’s belt to slow the bleeding. Police arrived shortly thereafter with an actual tourniquet, and the player was rushed to a hospital by an ambulance, where he underwent surgery.

The player is expected to make a full recovery and hopes to return to full activity without any restrictions by the end of the month.

“As a coach, you feel responsible for these kids,” said Johnson. “Their parents are trusting me with their kids. Yes, we’re supposed to teach them about hockey but also to take care of them.”

“It’s a lot of responsibility. I’m just so glad it turned out the way it did.”

A Hockey Family

As it so often does in these types of situations, the hockey community rallied around the young goaltender in the days and weeks following the incident.

After being released from the hospital, Kuhn received visits from his Rogers teammates as well as players from Champlin Park. Players and coaches from the Rogers boys high school team also visited and shared a team signed stick. Gifts from parents and coaches in Rogers arrived in the form of new hockey equipment and extra Christmas presents. The player even received an autographed stick and jersey from Minnesota Wild goaltender Cam Talbot in hopes of raising his spirits.

Later on, the Rogers team organized a movie night at the local movie theatre to get Kuhn out of the house for a fun activity.

“The dad of the player, who is a friend of mine, did not grow up playing hockey,” said Johnson. “I think he was a little bit overwhelmed or taken back by the overwhelming support they received not just from our team but anybody that has played hockey.”

“Everybody rallied around them and really supported them after it happened and are still doing so. That’s been really cool. I’m happy they’ve been able to see and experience that.”

Safety First

As Johnson notes above, countless collisions occur every day on the ice and some do involve skates. This type of incident, involving such a severe injury, is extremely rare. However, there are some safety lessons that can be learned.

Johnson and his team have now invested in shirts (and pants for the goaltender) with cut resistant fabric. There are a variety of cut resistant products, often made of Kevlar, as well as neck and wrist guards available on the market that are designed to provide more protection than a typical undershirt or pants.

The situation also highlights the importance of every youth hockey association and arena having an emergency action plan in place and an EMT or trainer on hand whenever possible. In addition, Rogers has invested in having a tourniquet, which are not included in standard first aid kids and should only be used by civilians in life threatening situations, available at the arena.

Perhaps most importantly, it serves as a reminder for coaches and parents to talk with their players about respect for opponents and understanding how to avoid the most dangerous situations or plays in hockey. This situation was an accident with no fault by anyone, but we can all play a role in making the game of hockey safer for everyone.


Editor’s Note: Darren and Kristi Kuhn, DJ’s parents, approved the use of his name for this story and provided the following words of thanks, “Kristi and I can't thank our hockey community enough... Life can push us down sometimes, but when you have the support that our hockey community has given, it makes it so much easier for DJ to get back up again. We are all grateful!"

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