Ballard was trying to hit the cage in disgust after an Atlanta goal and instead hit Vokoun in the head with a baseball swing as he was moving back up. The stick hit Vokoun flush in the mask, his head taking the full brunt of the blow.
Vokoun was on the ice for the past five minutes; Ballard skated off after hitting Vokoun, but Rostislav Olesz went over and quickly called for paramedics.
Vokoun hit in the side of the head and there was blood coming from his left ear where he was struck. Vokoun moved a little bit after being struck and did remove his own helmet by pushing it off just as he hit the ice and crawled into the net.
They have rolled him off the ice on a stretcher and he is apparently been taken to Grady Memorial Hospital not far from the arena.
UPDATE: According to team spokesman Justin Copertino, Vokoun suffered ear lacerations and was alert when they took him off. He was treated on the ice by Dr. Gillogly of the Thrashers medical staff. Panthers athletic trainer Steve Dischaivi went with Vokoun to the hospital.
UPDATE2: Just spoke with goalie coach Robb Tallas who says he doesn't think Vokoun suffered a concussion and thinks he was just in serious pain and stunned because he didn't know what hit him. That's believable. I'm sure he couldn't believe he got hammered by his own teammate. Anyway, Tallas thinks Vokoun should be cleared and released from the hospital in time to catch the team charter back to Fort Lauderdale tonight.
More as the night goes on...
Here's what happened: The Panthers turned the puck over in the Atlanta zone, with Ilya Kovalchuk picking it up and going on a breakaway; Vokoun stopped the initial shot, but sat still on the ice as the loose puck was there. Kovalchuk easily picked it up and scored to give Atlanta a 2-1 lead.
Ballard moved in on the play and after the goal was scored, swung his stick toward the crossbar; he obviously didn't see Vokoun moving back as Vokoun was whacked by the two-handed swing.
Ballard again swung his stick -- missing Vokoun this time -- bashing it against the side as his goalie roiled back in obvious pain.
And let's get this one thing straight: It was obviously a mistake -- a stupid mistake but that nonetheless.
Ballard does that quite a bit, as do other hockey players. He was ticked about the goal (he was racing back and Kovalchuk beat him to the loose puck) so he went to smash his stick against the cage. Unfortunately for both, Vokoun got in the way. Just a brutal smack. Never seen anything like that before and I don't think we'll ever see Ballard do it again.
By the way, he's playing as is backup Scott Clemmensen.
Expect Alexander Salak to be called up tomorrow from Rochester -- if he isn't on his way to the airport right now.
More as we go...
Here's the video of the hit courtesy of someone on YouTube: