Wheat Kings Derlago has broken neck

Derlago

Derlago

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

The WHL season hasn't started yet, but the Brandon Wheat Kings have lost one of their budding stars to a broken neck. Left-winger Mark Derlago, the nephew of former NHLer Bill Derlago, fractured the second vertebrae in his neck Saturday night during the Wheat Kings' pre-season finale against the Regina Pats at the Keystone Centre.

Derlago, who suffered no paralysis and is currently recovering at Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre, will miss the entire 2004-05 campaign.

"Mark was our rookie of the year last year and was positioned to be an important player on our team," Wheat Kings head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon said last night. "He'll be missed for sure."

The incident, which a WHL referee supervisor who was at the game called "a vicious hit," occurred in the second period when Regina's Jordan McGillivray, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound forward, bodychecked the 6-foot, 190-pound Derlago just inside the blue-line. McGillivray was assessed a five-minute charging major and a game misconduct.

"It was an open-ice hit," McCrimmon said. "There was kind of a scramble and he was looking down to find the puck and the player charged him. Just the way (Derlago's) head was tipped forward -- and he was kind of bending forward at the same time -- caused the injury.

"And the force of the hit, of course."

Derlago, who had eight goals and 20 assists in 65 games last season, lay on the ice for several minutes, but he was able to skate to the bench. At the next whistle, he headed for the dressing room and then was taken to Brandon General Hospital.

A Winnipeg doctor flew immediately to Brandon to assess Derlago's injury, and the Brandon native was airlifted back to Health Sciences Centre. Derlago didn't require surgery, but a halo was screwed into his skull to keep his neck stabilized. He's expected to return to Brandon later this week.

"He'll remain in the halo for a period of time that I don't know," McCrimmon said. "That'll be how he heals his neck."

McCrimmon wouldn't say what kind of discipline he thinks McGillivray, a Regina native, should face.

"The league reviews all major penalties, so they'll handle it however they see fit," he said. "It doesn't matter to me, quite frankly, how long he's suspended. It's not going to make Mark Derlago's situation any better or any worse if he gets two games, five games or 25 games.

"My thoughts are more with Mark at this point."

McCrimmon addressed the team yesterday afternoon to inform them of Derlago's status.

"I think the world of the kid. It's a tough blow for a young guy," McCrimmon said.

The Wheat Kings open the regular season Friday night at home -- against the Pats.


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