CHICAGO, IL - MAY 04: Niklas Hjalmarsson #4 of the Chicago Blackhawks blocks a shot by Mikael Granlund #64 of the Minnesota Wild in Game Two of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on May 4, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
A Chicago Blackhawks fan is recovering after he was hit in the head by a hockey puck at the start of the Hawks' first game against the Minnesota Wild Friday in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Gerald Green’s family confirmed he spent several days in the intensive care unit at Rush University Medical Center where he was being treated for a fractured skull.
“It happened so fast I didn’t even know it happened,” said friend and witness Ben Ellsworth. “I could actually hear it whistling, and the wind current blew by me. It hit him so hard, and I looked over at him, and he was just slumped over. Everybody in our section knew he was hit.”
Ellsworth said the two were sitting in section 119 at the United Center when a puck, believed to be hit by Duncan Keith nearly 4 minutes into the game, flew into the stands, striking Green on the left side of his head.
“[The puck] sailed up through the center and curled around and hit Gerald right in the face,” Ellsworth said. “You can actually see now the whole entire puck [bruised on his head].”
Family members said Green’s condition has been stabilized at the hospital, but the Hawks fan was having trouble speaking.
“He’s not able to talk because where he was hit by the puck is where we formulate speech, so everything kind of comes out jumbled now,” said his brother Kelly Green.
The injury has shocked Green’s family and friends.
“It was definitely traumatic, that’s for sure,” Ellsworth said. “His whole family was just rattled; I was rattled. It was just very surreal.”
A spokesman for the Chicago Blackhawks confirmed the organization has reached out to the family but is "respecting their wishes of privacy at this time." He said Duncan Keith sent a personalized letter to Green's hospital room, along with an autographed jersey and autographed stick.
"We certainly wish him a speedy recovery," said spokesman Brandon Faber.
Last year, a longtime Blackhawks fan and season ticket holder needed reconstructive surgery after she was hit in the face by a flying hockey puck.
She needed more than 20 internal and external stitches to close a gash and wound up with a bruised retina, inflammation and a concussion.