ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Mike Brodzinski always told his four boys that, when they are playing hockey, there is a rule to follow.
Mike talked to his son, Easton, on Monday morning after Easton had to have surgery to insert a rod and two screws to repair a broken femur that he suffered in St. Cloud State's NCAA Division I Northeast Regional championship win over Boston College in Albany, N.Y.
"He said, 'Dad, the first thing that went through my head was — you hollering at me that if you're hurt, get your butt off the ice. If you're injured, it's fine to lay there,'" Mike said. "We call him 'Stitch' because he's had more stitches than anybody and I've never seen him lay on the ice.
"When it happened, I knew he was hurt. I told my brother right away, 'Dang it, he just broke his femur.' My brother is like, 'No, if anything, it's a deep thigh bruise.' I go, 'He's laying on the ice. He doesn't lay on the ice.'"
Unfortunately, Mike was correct in his assessment as he watched the game from his home. Easton got off the ice with the help of two teammates and by not putting any weight on his right leg. He was taken to a hospital and had the surgery Sunday night.
Mike said that Easton's surgeon told him that the surgery went well and there is a good prognosis for his recovery. He will walk for 2-3 weeks on crutches, 3-4 weeks without crutches and then, in 10-12 weeks, Easton should be able to begin jogging.
"In our day, that was a year (recovery) and you were in a cast up to your thigh," said Mike, who played hockey for St. Cloud State from 1984-87 and is the program's all-time leading scorer in the pre-Division I era. "He's got an ace bandage on it (Tuesday). He's already been walking on his crutches with his leg.
"With the kind of shape he's in, they said it's going to go quicker," Mike said of recovery. "He also said it's six months to full recovery. He should be up to 90% by month 4 ... The doctor said that the surgery couldn't have gone better, that everything went right back together perfectly. It was a clean break and everything re-alligned right away. That's why they did the surgery as (soon) as they did because the faster you get it back together, the faster it starts to heal."
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Brodzinski name synonymous with SCSU
Easton is the third of four sons for Mike and Kathy Brodzinski. His oldest brother, Jonny, played for the Huskies from 2012-15. His brother, Michael, played for the University of Minnesota from 2013-16. His younger brother, Bryce, is a sophomore forward for the Gophers. Besides Mike, Easton and Jonny playing for the Huskies, his uncle, Steve Brodzinski, also played for St. Cloud State from 1984-87.
"He's incredibly disappointed and he's a guy who's put his heart and soul into this team for four years," Huskies coach Brett Larson said of Easton during a conference call for the four Frozen Four coaches Tuesday. "His name is synonymous with the program, obviously. All the hard work he put in and now he can't be a part of this ... it's really tough on him.
"He just wants this so bad for this team and this program and that's tough. On the other hand, our guys, from the moment he went down, used it kind of as a rallying cry where we all need to bring a little bit more when you lose somebody like that," he said of Easton, who has led the team in goals each of the last two seasons. "I think that's the feel in the room right now. We want to do it for Easton. We want to do it for a guy who has put everything into this program and we know we're all going to have to bring a little bit more this week to make up for his loss."
Mike and Kathy typically split up to watch their sons play college hockey games when they are playing on the same days. On Sunday, Kathy was in Loveland, Colo., watching Bryce and the Gophers play for the West Regional championship. Mike said that he could not find an affordable and hotel and stayed home.
After Easton got injured, he considered flying to Albany, but Easton was already in surgery and would be out of it for most of the day on Monday. When Mike got a chance to talk to Easton early Monday morning, it was a tough call.
"He's a little better now," Mike said late Tuesday morning. "The first time I talked to him, he was really scared. 'What just happened? Nobody's here. What's going on?' He's had some NHL interest and everything is running through his head at one time.
"I told him, 'Just slow down. Let's take care of what we've got to take care of first. He said, 'I know Dad, but..' I said, 'There's no buts. There's nothing we can change. Let's see what happens with this and go from there. There's plenty of options. That's last. Let's worry about getting you better.'"
St. Cloud State athletic trainer Bryan DeMaine has been with Easton since Sunday's game ended and flew back to Minnesota with him.
In the rush to get back to Minnesota on Sunday, Easton's teammates grabbed all of his belongings from his locker and took them with them. The problem was, his wallet was among the items and Brodzinski had to find a way to get some identification so he could get on a plane and get home.
The good part of Sunday for the Brodzinskis was that St. Cloud State beat Boston College to advance to its first Frozen Four since 2013. But after Easton got injured, Minnesota State University-Mankato beat Minnesota in the regional championship to end the Gophers' season.
Oh, and it was Mike and Kathy's wedding anniversary that day.
"She's in Colorado, so she called and I said, 'It went from the best day of my life on Saturday, (SCSU) beating BU like that (in the semifinals) and the Gophers trouncing Omaha (7-2) to the worst day of our lives on Sunday with Easton getting hurt like that and the Gophers losing ... but it's not because of our anniversary,'" Mike said, laughing at the last part. "She didn't think that was too funny. You've got to make light of this or it's really going to eat away at you."
Mike got so many texts from people after Easton got hurt that he eventually took to Twitter to give everyone an update. If he has not answered your text, he apologizes.
"I appreciate how many people have reached out and I bet you I have 400 texts," he said. "I'd answer 10 and there'd be 40 more ... It's crazy how many people have reached out and I appreciate all that stuff."
In a typical year, Sunday's game would have been his last in college. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, all players have been granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA. So Easton could return to the Huskies next season if he wants to and if he is healthy enough to play.
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