Normand Leveille of the Boston Bruins was listed in poor condition in the intensive care unit of Vancouver General Hospital today after suffering a brain hemorrhage during a National Hockey League game against the Vancouver Canucks Saturday night.
The second-year forward, 19, a native of Montreal, was taken to the hospital after collapsing in the Boston dressing room during the intermission between the first and second periods. He was reported in critical condition following surgery Saturday night. He is breathing with help of a respirator.
"For the time being there is no way to predict his future and that includes whether he lives or dies," said a spokesman for neurosurgeons Dr. Paul Steinbok and Dr. Barry Woodhurst, who operated on the player.
The doctors said they may not know for three days whether Leveille will recover.
A hospital spokeswoman said neurosurgeons succeeded in stopping the bleeding and reducing the pressure on Leveille's brain, but his condition had deteriorated since the six-hour operation. "Our team doctor Dave Harris said that right now his reactions are simple, primitive ones and that he is not sure whether Normand would be able to breathe without a respirator at this stage," said Norm Jewison, publicity director for the Canucks .
"He is listed in poor condition, which is one step beyond critical."
Doctors say the hemorrhage likely was triggered, but not caused by, a heavy check he received during the first period of the game. The first to attend to Leveille was the Canucks' physician, Ross Davidson, who said it was possible the hockey player was born with the problem.
Davidson said Leveille has had an arterio-veinus malformation since birth, but there would have been no way of knowing about it unless a brain scan had been performed.
A Boston team spokesman said today that no one on the club had any idea Leveille had a problem. The spokesman also said General Manager Harry Sinden and Assistant Coach Jean Ratelle were staying at the hospital monitoring the situation. Leveille's parents also arrived and visited their son today.
Leveille had taken a check from Vancouver's Marc Crawford in the first period, but continued to play. At the end of the period, Ratelle reportedly went over and talked to him. Leveille had difficulty speaking and nearly collapsed into Ratelle's arms. Davidson then was summoned.
"When I first saw him, I knew immediately that he was in trouble," Davidson said. "He had facial weakness and right-arm and right-leg weakness.
"He could follow commands when we left the (Pacific) Coliseum, but when we got to the hospital his condition began to deteriorate. He had a falling pulse and rising blood pressure and loss of consciousness. He was soon taken for a brain scan and that soon told them (doctors) there was bleeding and pressure.
"It was not trauma-related. It didn't result from a check or a hard hit in the game. It could have happened if he'd sneezed going down the street. It's a risky thing to say that he'll never play again, but the risk of further damage would be too great to play hockey."
Davidson said at best, there was a grave risk Leveille would suffer permanent damage, possibly speech impediments or right-side spasticity. "I've never seen a case like this in all the time I've been in sports medicine," he said.
"You see the trauma-related injuries, but not these things happening inside."
Davidson said treatment "is helping to lower the blood pressure and minimize the bleeding. They only have it under control. When they try to take him off, it may start right back up again."
"It's a wait-and-see thing," said Sinden. "It's really too bad. Not only was he just starting his hockey career. He really was just starting his life, too."
The Bruins had high hopes for the young forward, the team's top pick in the 1981 junior draft and their youngest pick ever. He was chosen 14th overall.
Laveille, 5 feet 10, 175 pounds, had 14 goals and 19 assists for 33 points in his rookie year with the Bruins.
Leveille was the team's leading scorer this season with three goals and six assists.