Vicious hit leaves Swiss hockey player paralyzed

A Swiss ice hockey player is paralyzed after being rammed into the boards by a rival team's forward during the second division play-offs, the victim's club said on Thursday.

Vicious hit leaves Swiss hockey player paralyzed
Screenshot of YouTube video showing Keller being rammed into the boards.

EHC Olten said that defence man Ronny Keller, 33, was not set to recover from the injury he suffered in Tuesday night's semi-final match at home to regional rivals Langenthal.

The grim diagnosis came from Switzerland's specialized paraplegic clinic, which operated on Keller in the wake of the shock body check by Langenthal right-wing Stefan Schnyder.

"As a result of a serious injury to his fourth dorsal vertebra, Ronny Keller will remain paraplegic," Olten quoted the clinic's chief physician Michael Baumberger as saying.

The club said that Keller had not suffered brain damage and was due to be released from intensive care soon.

"He's awake, able to speak normally and has been informed of the results of the accident," they said.

In a statement, the country's national federation Swiss Ice Hockey said it was "overwhelmed" by what had happened to Keller.

"He is in all of our thoughts, as are his family and friends," it said.

Schnyder's check shocked fans used to the tough world of ice hockey, with television footage snowballing across the Internet.

The 29-year-old Langenthal player closed in on Keller's left, before crashing into him with his chest and then ramming him headlong into the rink boards.

Keller, who remained prostrate on the ice, told officials he could not feel his legs and was evacuated to the clinic by helicopter.

The Swiss league has opened a disciplinary case against Schnyder.

Whatever the outcome, he will not play for the remainder of the season, Langenthal said.

Speaking to the newspaper Blick before Keller's diagnosis was announced, Schnyder said he regretted what had happened and hoped the player would recover.

"I only wanted to get to the puck before him. I'm haunted by the scene and I feel bad about this," Blick quoted him as saying.

Langenthal later said Schnyder was deeply upset, would not be talking to the media and was receiving counselling.

They also expressed their deepest sympathies to Keller and his family.

The Keller case has dominated Switzerland's sports pages.

Emmanuel Favre, chief sports editor of the daily Le Matin, said Schnyder could not have been unaware of the danger of his challenge.

He said tough sanctions were needed to calm "hotheads" in the Swiss game, notably during the tense play-off season, as the likes of Olten and Langenthal battle to reach the first division.

"But those to blame aren't just on the ice. Coaches, whose reputation is made and broken by their results, don't always measure the impact of their team-talks," Favre wrote.

"Ice hockey is, and always will be, a contact sport," he wrote.

"There will always be charges and injuries.

"But with a little bit of goodwill and a decent dose of respect — something that's cruising to extinction in the game — it would be possible to avoid tragedies like that in Olten."

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


IN PICTURES: Runners take on Swiss glacier race despite melt

Hundreds of runners braved a lung-busting ascent into the Alps in Switzerland's Glacier 3000 Run on Saturday, albeit on a shortened course due to summer heatwaves melting the ice.

IN PICTURES: Runners take on Swiss glacier race despite melt

The event’s 14th edition was back without limitations after being cancelled in 2020 due to Covid-19 and run in 2021 with restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.

The race is normally run over 26.2 kilometres but was contested on a slightly modified 25.2km course this year due to the glacier melting, with the last pass over its surface shortened.

Runners make their way under a ski lift  on the glacier run in Switzerland

Runners make their way under a ski lift during the last kilometres of the Glacier 3000 run. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

“The accelerated melting of the top layer of the glacier has created a camber and a soft layer which the runner sinks into,” said race director Oliver Hermann.

“Rather than intervening to flatten the track, we preferred to deviate the course.”

Runners on last stretch of Switzerland's glacier run

On the final stretch of this year’s shortened course. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

The finish line is 1,886 metres higher than the start, at nearly 3,000 metres up in the mountains by the Scex Rouge peak.

READ ALSO: Heatwaves close off classic Swiss and Italian Alpine hiking routes

The route begins in the jet-set ski resort town of Gstaad, at 1,050 metres above sea level.

It passes through forests, green mountain pastures before heading into rocky lunar-like landscapes and taking in the Tsanfleuron Glacier.

The course follows the Saane river upstream for 15 km before climbing up 1,800 metres over the remaining 10 km to the finish line — at an altitude of 2,936 metres.

A couple hold their hands while walking on the melting Tsanfleuron Glacier above Les Diablerets

A couple hold hands while walking on the melting Tsanfleuron Glacier above Les Diablerets, where the Glacier 3000 Run took place on August 6th. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP)

Some 311 men and 98 women completed the individual course, while 50 two-person teams also took part.

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland’s glaciers are melting faster than usual this summer

The first man to finish was Kenyan competitor Geoffrey Ndungu in two hours and 17 minutes. He had finished in second place last year.

He was followed by compatriot Abraham Ebenyo Ekwam in 2:21 and then Switzerland’s Jonathan Schmid in 2:23.

Victoria Kreuzer was the first woman to finish, in 2:46, ahead of Nicole Schindler and Pascale Rebsamen — a Swiss clean sweep.