For two hours, Mac Bennett’s career as a Wolverine was over.
It had happened on an innocent play. The puck went behind the net and Bennett, the Michigan hockey team’s senior captain, retrieved it and turned up ice. But it got caught between his skates, and the defenseman had to glance down to regain control. When he looked back up, a Penn State forward was about to level him.
Then, Bennett recalled Tuesday, he was “smoked.”
That’s why he found himself, hours later, sitting in a hospital as doctors were explaining that he was done for the year. But the pain he had felt lying on the ice, so intense that he couldn’t keep his legs still, the hush of the Yost Ice Arena crowd and the worried look on his coaches’ faces had told him enough already. It was already a foregone conclusion, and the doctor just confirmed the inevitable. Bennett would miss the Wolverines’ last six regular-season games and would only watch as the team he led fought without him for an NCAA Tournament bid.
“I was sitting in the room like, ‘Oh my God,’ ” Bennett said.
But his career isn’t over. Two hours after the senior said a misread X-ray indicated that he wouldn’t return in time for the end of the season, a CAT scan showed otherwise. Those results suggested the captain will be able to suit up again this year.
Monday, Michigan coach Red Berenson announced that Bennett is week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
“It was definitely a relief, especially after hearing the first time that my season was going to be over,” the senior said.
For those hours, though, Bennett had to come to terms with the possibility of having played his last game as a Wolverine. He followed the end of his team’s game against Penn State on Twitter, “salivating at the mouth” for the stream of updates. After it ended, he congratulated them but then had to share the bad news.
“You just ruined my life for two hours,” Bennett said of the incorrect prognosis. “It was very scary. Thinking that’s the last time I put on the block ‘M,’ the last time I step on the ice at Yost. It was a hard concept to grasp at the time.
“I couldn’t wrap my brain around it in those two hours. Luckily, I didn’t have to.”
Given Michigan’s struggles defensively this season, Bennett’s return to the ice will be eagerly awaited both because of his skill set and his leadership qualities. The Wolverines will have to handle Ohio State’s potent forwards without him this weekend, but Bennett promises that he’ll travel to Columbus, even if he has to drive himself.
It has been a long, frustrating week. At Tuesday’s practice, Bennett quietly stood by the north bleachers wearing a blue athletic jacket and blue sweatpants. Aside for the bag of ice wrapped around his left shoulder, he looked normal. After watching stoically for several minutes, he turned around and walked back into the locker room.
For two hours, the captain’s season was over. But in a couple of weeks, he could be back.