By Jon Roe
University of Saskatchewan Huskies forward Michael Lieffers thought he might not be able to play in the team’s semi-final game in Ottawa during the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s basketball championship.
The Huskies were looking to extend an 11-game win streak and get themselves to the national finals for the first time in the history of their program. They had won their first Canada West championship only two weeks earlier, and needed to get past the formidable Carleton University Ravens, who had won six of the last seven CIS titles.
Lieffers had slipped in the bathroom, cut himself and needed 25 stitches at the hospital just hours before the game started.
“It almost seemed like a movie you know — a tragedy happens before the game,” he said. “Two and half hours before the game, I slipped and I kicked the whole toilet apart.”
The toilet’s shattered ceramic cut Lieffers’ left leg above the Achilles’ tendon right to the bone and he was lying in a pool of water flowing out of the revealed pipes.
“The water was pink and I couldn’t figure out why the water is pink,” said Lieffers. “Is it rusty or something? Then I looked at my leg and was like, ‘Oh, crap.’ “
Fifth-year guard and Lieffers’ roommate Michael Linklater saw the cut and applied pressure. He called for the trainers, and head coach Greg Jockims.
“It’s bad, it’s right to the bone,” said Jockims. “We need to call an ambulance. . . . We assumed he wasn’t going to play. We were down one.”
So Lieffers was rushed to the Ottawa General Hospital, while teammates boarded a bus for Scotiabank Place unsure of the status of their starting forward and friend.
But Lieffers had avoided major damage to his leg, was able to be stitched up and the hospital kindly ran him to the arena in an ambulance SUV with sirens and lights allowing him to arrive at the game 20 minutes before tip-off.
“I looked at him, and asked, ‘Are you alright?’ ” said Jockims. ” ‘Yeah, I’m good.’ . . . Then he went out on the floor and played a hell of a game.”
Lieffers picked up 13 points and 11 rebounds in 32 minutes of gametime in the Huskies’ 86-82 win over the Ravens.
The Huskies went on to win the national championship 91-81 over the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds the next night. Lieffers played another 32 minutes and picked up 13 more rebounds and six points.
“In hindsight, maybe it helped us,” said Jockims. “It took our minds away from the enormity of the game we were heading to and the amount of pressure that game held. The focus was more on is Liefs okay. When we found out he could play, everyone’s spirits returned to the game and we were ready to go on the court.”