For Tim Conboy, a long, trying, emotional and ultimately fulfilling day began Thursday morning at an airport counter in Albany, N.Y.
Conboy, the captain of the Albany River Rats (AHL), was preparing to catch a flight to New York to join the Carolina Hurricanes. A callup, he was to play Thursday night against the New York Islanders.
"I was checking my bags and a lady asked me if I played for the River Rats," Conboy said today. "I said, 'Yeah, why?' She said, 'Well, are you OK?' I said, 'Why?' and she said, 'Because your bus crashed.'
"I said, 'Are you serious?' I thought she had made a mistake. I didn't know if she knew it was the right team."
It was the right team. The River Rats' team bus crashed early Thursday morning in western Massachusetts returning from a game in Lowell, Mass. The bus flipped on its side, and there were several serious injuries, but none life-threatening.
"I started freaking out," Conboy said. "Then I started getting phone calls. My dad and my mom. I called my wife and found out it was true.
"I was in a state of shock. There was a little queasy feeling in my stomach. I couldn't rest easy all day until I found out everyone was OK."
Conboy was serving out the last of a four-game AHL suspension and missed the trip to Lowell. And Thursday night, there was a game to play against the Islanders.
"It was hard to be happy, to be up in the NHL," he said. "The tragedy that had happened with the guys puts everything in perspective.
"I'm just happy everybody made it out OK. I know some guys got some serious injuries but the main thing is that everybody is alive."
Conboy was used at both forward and on defense in the Canes' 6-2 win. Always a physical type, he was in on a fight and almost scored a goal but had it nullified for goaltender interference with the Islanders' Joey MacDonald.
"I thought I had my first goal, but I guess you can't run the goalie over," a smiling Conboy said. "No, it was fun. It was fun being out there again."
A little fun at the end of a hard, tough day.