Behind the scenes of Coyotes’ Antti Raanta’s auto accident

Feb 2, 2018, 5:04 PM | Updated: Feb 3, 2018, 3:48 pm
Arizona Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta, left, of Finland, deflects as hot by Colorado Avalanche center...

Arizona Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta, left, of Finland, deflects as hot by Colorado Avalanche center Tyson Jost during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017, in Denver. The Coyotes won 3-1. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Antti Raanta and Richard Panik left home for Gila River Arena a little before 4 p.m. on Thursday in heavy, stop-and-go traffic on the Loop 101. Raanta had just started to move again in the HOV lane when he noticed a white SUV barreling toward his BMW sedan in the rearview mirror.

“It was almost like seeing a train coming,” Raanta said.

The rear-end impact occurred at an estimated speed between 40 and 50 miles per hour, sending Raanta and Panik lurching forward, but luckily not striking their heads on anything.

“It was a little shock, of course,” Raanta said. “At first, you just wanted to make sure everybody was OK. After that, you started to figure out all the insurance and everything else. Then the cops came and they took all the info and they closed the highway and they towed the cars away, got all the paperwork done.”

The male driver of the SUV, a woman in the passenger seat and a child were OK. So was Panik.

“I think [Panik] didn’t see it coming so he didn’t have time to react so he was more relaxed than me,” Raanta said, laughing. “He’s much stronger than me. That’s probably why he is feeling better.”

Raanta noticed pain in his neck and back, but he was cleared to go to the arena for Thursday’s game against the Dallas Stars a little after 5 p.m.

In the meantime, he had called the Coyotes to let them know what had happened. Assistant general manager Chris O’Hearn said the team was on the phone to the league office to see if they could recall Tucson Roadrunners goalie Adin Hill from the American Hockey League. Hill was already at Gila River Arena because the Roadrunners had practiced there on Thursday before heading to Ontario, California for a game against the Reign on Friday.

The league declined the request because it had come after the 5 p.m. Eastern deadline, so Hill was stuck watching Thursday’s game from the press box while Raanta served as the backup to Scott Wedgewood.

Raanta never dressed and he remained in the locker room during the game, hoping Wedgewood would stay healthy. Wedgwood joked that Raanta was on a headset, communicating with him throughout the game.

The Coyotes did not have their normal emergency goalie, Nathan Schoenfeld, available, but they have an emergency backup (who knew?) named Alex Taylor. Taylor played Division II Club hockey at ASU.

Things got even more interesting when Dallas Stars goalie Ben Bishop was struck in the head by a puck on the bench while serving as the backup for Kari Lehtonen. Bishop went to the locker room and did not return. NHL rules stipulate that the emergency goalie must be available for both teams, so Taylor was an injury away from playing for either team.

Luckily for both teams, that scenario did not play out.

Raanta returned to practice on Friday at the Ice Den Scottsdale.

“Usually the day after is the worst and this morning it was pretty tough to get off the bed but I came in early and got some treatments,” Raanta said. “At first, it didn’t feel that great but when the practice was going it started to feel much more comfortable and the body was feeling good. It was a pretty good day.”

Raanta traveled with the team to Los Angeles on Friday afternoon for its game against the Kings at Staples Center on Saturday. He will be evaluated at the morning skate, where his availability will be determined.

“It’s his call,” coach Rick Tocchet said. “It’s one of those sorts of things where if he feels good he’ll come to me and tell me. It’s basically a wait-and-see approach.”

Hill also traveled to Los Angeles after the team recalled him Friday on an emergency basis. If Raanta can’t play, he will serve as the backup. If Raanta is well enough to play or back up, Hill could drive across town to join the Roadrunners.

Raanta does not know the extent of the damage to his car, but he is happy that everyone came away from the accident largely unscathed.

“You can always get new cars and new paint jobs, but when somebody gets hurt really bad it’s never a good thing,” he said. “For sure, it was one of the craziest game days.”

With two lower-body injuries, a concussion and a car accident already on his Arizona resume in less than a year with the team, Raanta joked that he is expecting to get bitten by a rattlesnake soon.

“I might write a book or do a little, short movie about it,” he said of his season. “I don’t know yet if it’s going to be a scary movie or a comedy.”

Coyotes at Kings
When: 8:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Radio: 98.7 FM Arizona Sports Station
Records: Kings — 27-19-5. Coyotes — 12-30-9.
Injury report: Kings — C Jeff Carter (ankle) is out indefinitely. D Alec Martinez (lower body), D Derek Forbort (upper body) and F Tanner Pearson (ill) are day to day. Coyotes — D Jason Demers (IR, upper body) and G Antti Raanta (neck/back) are day-to-day. Demers did not travel with the team to L.A.

Kings scouting report: The Kings were in first place on Dec. 22. Since then, they are 5-9-1 and have fallen out of playoff position. … C Anze Kopitar leads the team with 19 goals and 53 points. … The Kings are tied for second in the NHL in goals against per game at 2.47. They lead the league in penalty killing percentage at 85.3.

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Behind the scenes of Coyotes’ Antti Raanta’s auto accident