Victoria hockey coach seriously injured in Beijing crash

Justin Isaac woke up in the middle of a busy Beijing road on Dec. 6 and realized his leg was broken.

The 28-year-old Victoria man, who was a player and assistant coach with the Peninsula Panthers hockey team, was bruised and scratched all over his body. A bone in his leg was sticking out through the skin and he was bleeding badly, he said in a video chat Thursday from his hospital bed in Beijing.

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Isaac appeared tired, with yellow and purple bruising around an eye. He said he has no memory of being hit by a car.

“I remember my friend tried to help me. After a little bit, a few other people noticed and tried to help. They moved me off the street, which was really painful with my leg. I just remember having to hold both parts of it as they moved me over the sidewalk,” he recalled.

Isaac waited for the ambulance in –10 C weather. When he arrived at the hospital, doctors found he had two compound fractures of his left leg. He was taken to the operating room.

Staff from the Kaiwen Sports Academy, where Isaac has been coaching young hockey players since February, rushed to the hospital and took care of everything, he said.

“They visited every day and brought food and snacks and delivered cards from the children,” Isaac said.

“They really helped me recover and stay positive. They’re super nice.”

Young players from the two teams he coaches made a video telling Isaac they missed him and hoped he would soon be better.

“Coaching young people has been a really amazing experience. It’s been a lot of fun. Some of the kids have never played hockey before. Just getting them interested in the game and seeing them start to fall in love with it, that’s been really rewarding.”

After talking with police at the hospital, Isaac agreed to take 50 per cent of the blame for the accident.

Still, Isaac said he had been enjoying the new experience of living in China.

“I didn’t really have any expectations. I heard about the job and moved two months later.”

Pete Zubersky, co-owner of the Peninsula Panthers, said Isaac started coming to the hockey games as a little kid.

“Every Friday night, he was there as a little boy. He went through minor hockey and he made the team. … He had a couple of serious injuries and it kind of derailed his junior career,” said Zubersky.

A couple of years ago, Isaac helped at spring camp. Last summer, Zubersky asked if Isaac would like to come on as an assistant coach.

“He helped with the forwards and there were quite a number of kids on the team he had coached in minor hockey. He had a good relationship with the players and that seemed to work,” said Zubersky. “I think he’s just a really good young man.”

Isaac wants people to know just how grateful he is for the support from home.

“What an amazing community there is on Vancouver Island. It’s been overwhelming, but it’s been really nice.”

After the accident, Isaac’s brother Jared flew to China right away. He had a travel visa because he had visited the country last month. He has since flown home. Isaac’s mother Chrysstena applied for a travel visa and arrived in Beijing Wednesday.

The two will fly back to Victoria on Monday. Isaac will go straight to a hospital in Victoria for a second operation.

“I’m not really sure what I’m going to do,” said the hockey coach. “I’m just excited to get on the plane and get back home. It will probably be about six months before I can start walking again.”

In the meantime, a friend has set up a fundraising page online to help cover the costs of Isaac’s travel, physiotherapy and rehabilitation.

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