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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

At this hockey game, the biggest save might have kept a boy alive

By Orlando Mayorquín

Asia Davis was up late thinking about the harrowing finish to the hockey game the night before, and she decided that she needed to find the man who might have saved her son’s life. So she went on TikTok.

“Out of nowhere this puck comes out of heaven straight toward my son’s head,” Davis said in a TikTok video posted early Saturday, April 13.

She had taken her son and a friend to watch the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League play the Laval Rocket the previous Thursday.

Near the end of the game, a rogue puck blasted off the ice, over the glass and into the stands where Nasir, 4, was sitting.

Just as suddenly, Davis said, a man in a backward baseball cap and gray sweater leaned over to swat it away.

Davis credits that man, Andrew Podolak, 28, with saving her son from a life-changing blow, or worse. The puck had come so close that her son had ice chips in his hair, she said.

“I held the puck and felt how heavy it was, and knowing how fast it was going, I kind of wanted to throw up,” Davis, 33, said in a phone interview Sunday night.

She thanked Podolak and snapped a picture of him with her son. Her son didn’t realize he had nearly been hit, she said, and he was “over the moon” when he got to keep the puck.

But the disquieting scenario kept running through her mind. She had trouble sleeping.

She needed to know the name of the quick-acting man.

So she turned to TikTok early Saturday for help, posting a video of the close encounter taken by her friend, along with a picture she had snapped of the man and her son.

Davis woke up at around 10 a.m. to more than 600,000 views and a flooded inbox, including one from Podolak.

“He had just said: ‘Everything happens for a reason. I’m glad little man is OK,’” Davis said.

The Monsters organization saw Davis’ TikTok video, which now has more than 4 million views, and invited her, Nasir and Podolak to drop the puck before the team played the Laval Rocket again at home on Saturday evening.

Podolak and Nasir met again, this time on the ice, and amid a swarm of television cameras and microphones.

“I had a couple other kids sitting behind me as well so I just tried jumping in front of it and it was able to deflect off my hand,” Podolak told reporters, referring to the stray puck.

It is rare for a hockey fan to be killed by a puck. In 2002, a 13-year-old girl died after she was struck in the head by a puck at a game in Columbus, Ohio, the only death of a fan in the history of the NHL. Protective netting at each end of NHL rinks was later mandated. The AHL, a feeder league for the NHL, followed suit.

At professional hockey games, announcements typically caution fans to look out for flying pucks. A similar warning is written on the backs of tickets or posted on scoreboards.

On Sunday, Davis said that moments after the flying-puck incident, Podolak told her that he had just happened to sit next to Nasir even though he also had tickets for other seats.

“‘I was supposed to be here,’” Davis recalled him telling her.

“A couple of people were like, ‘Wow, that was a really close call, that was really lucky,’” Davis said. “But I don’t think it was luck. I think that was fate.”

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