By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – Muskegon Lumberjacks fans are hearing a familiar voice over the public address system at L.C. Walker Arena this fall.
Jason Goorman, the guy who’s been admonishing fans to “make some nooiiisse” for the home team for the past three seasons, is back behind the microphone.
A few months ago Goorman wondered if he would ever talk again, let alone announce another hockey game.
He was in Washington, D.C. last February on a business trip for Garrison Dental (his full-time employer) when he developed strange symptoms. He started feeling an odd tingling in his face, which soon turned to shock-like sensations and extreme pain.
He went to the emergency room at George Washington University Hospital, where the staff was unable to determine what was wrong with him.
“I couldn’t talk or move – that shock would happen in my face and it wouldn’t stop,” said Goorman, 34, a Muskegon native who secured the Lumberjacks announcing job during an open public tryout several years ago. “It felt literally like I was touching an electrical fence. They had no idea what was wrong with me, and they weren’t very nice to me.
“They checked me in, this doctor tried to get me to talk, but I couldn’t. At one point I had such a horrible shock to my face that I screamed. The doctor became furious and stormed out of the room. Then he came back in and said ‘If you don’t be quiet you’re going to freak everyone out on this floor.’
“I just fought through the shocks and tried my best to tell him what was going on, but he said nothing was wrong. Another doctor came in – he smelled like alcohol – and started testing my reflexes. He eventually asked me if I had psychological problems.
“I was worried that they were going to put me in the psychological ward.”
While at the hospital he contacted his sister-in-law, a nurse practitioner who lives in Spring Lake, and she accurately determined that he was suffering from trigeminal neuralgia.
That meant that one of the trigeminal nerves in his face (we all have two of them, and they provide feeling in our faces) had become intertwined with the basilar artery in his brain.
“Every time my heart beat that artery was hitting against the nerve, and eventually that constant beating broke the nerve wall,” said Goorman, who is also founder and publisher of the Local Sports Journal. “It caused extreme pain on the right side of my face.”
Goorman’s situation got worse a night later, when he was sleeping on his friend’s couch in Washington, D.C. He was just falling asleep when he was hit with an extreme shock that caused him to jump up off the couch.
Unfortunately his left leg was tangled in a blanket, and when he jumped he tore the lateral meniscus (or soft cartilage) in his left knee.
“By the time I got back to Muskegon I literally could not walk or talk,” Goorman said.
He received treatment at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, where they gave him a shot to the facial nerve that allowed his speech to return temporarily. He insisted on working a Lumberjacks game a few days later, despite the objections of his family, and managed to get through it with few problems.
“I asked my brother to drive me to the L.C. – everyone refused to take me – so I called a cab to take me to the game in the middle of a blizzard,” Goorman said. “My brother finally made me cancel the cab and took me.”
Unfortunately the horrible symptoms returned a few days after the game, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to finish the season.
“The team went on a long road trip, and by the time they came back I had allergic reactions to the medication they gave me, which set me back to where I had been,” Goorman said. “Then I got a rash all over my body, which was pretty brutal, too. My speech came and went intermittently. I knew I was done.”
Doctors tried several different methods of treatment for several months, before finally deciding that surgery would be necessary.
Goorman underwent successful microvascular decompression brain surgery at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids June 18, and ended up missing the next two months of his full-time job.
About six weeks later his condition had improved to the point that he knew he could return to the Lumberjacks this fall.
“It was the worst feeling ever,’ Goorman said about having to cut last hockey season short. “It was something you love doing. Just to be down there every game, in the heart of Muskegon’s sports world, you don’t want to miss it if you don’t have to.”
Goorman returned to duty in September, on time for the Lumberjacks’ home opener.
“It was surreal,” Goorman said about returning to his announcing perch a level below the press box at the arena. “Prior to that, for about six months, all I could think about was that my life was never going to be the same. I thought I was going to have to start over and reinvent myself.
“I really thought I was done. I thought there was no way I could come back. That’s my job – I talk, I sing at church. All the things I love to do were gone for awhile.”
Watch and listen to the video below of Goorman during the Lumberjacks game against Youngstown on February 16.
THREE HOME GAMES ON TAP FOR JACKS
The Lumberjacks will return to action Wednesday morning at 10:30 a.m. for the annual “Hockey for Health” game. The early start is designed to accommodate thousands of students from around the area who attend the game as a special school outing.
The opponent will be the Cedar Rapids Roughriders, who defeated Muskegon 3-2 last Saturday to extend the Lumberjacks’ losing streak to three games.
The Lumberjacks will host Dubuque, the defending Clark Cup champion and one of the top teams in the league, on Friday and Saturday night. Puck drop for both games will be 7:15 p.m.
Muskegon gave Dubuque all it could handle last weekend before dropping a 5-4 decision in overtime.
The Lumberjacks enter Wednesday’s game with a 6-6-2 record and 14 points, which puts them in fifth place in the United States Hockey League’s Eastern Conference standings.
The division race remains tight. Team USA leads with 21 points, Green Bay is second with 17, Dubuque is third with 16 and Cedar Rapids is fourth with 15.
But the Lumberjacks will have their work cut out for them if they want to make long-term progress in the conference standings. That’s because they’ve already played 14 games, compared to only nine for Cedar Rapids, 10 for Dubuque and 12 for Green Bay.
TIFFELS, SMITH TRADED
The Lumberjacks made some major alterations to their roster Tuesday, announcing two trades.
The first trade sent forward Frederik Tiffels to the Fargo Force in exchange for forward Alex Toscano and a future draft pick.
Tiffels was in his second season with the Lumberjacks and had three goals and two assists in 13 games this fall. Toscano, a first-year player in the USHL, has yet to score a goal in 10 games.
In the second trade the Lumberjacks sent forward C.J. Smith and a future draft pick to the Chicago Steel in exchange for forward Christopher Dodero. Smith has four goals and one assist in 13 games for Muskegon while Dodero has one goal in 10 games for Chicago.
The Lumberjacks did not release any more information about the trades. Communications coordinator Bryan Fongers would only say that the team was trying to add toughness to its forward lines.
The Lumberjacks also recalled draft pick Jacob Coleman from the Pittsburgh Penguins midget major team. Coleman had four goals and four assists so far this season.
Toscano, Dodero and Coleman are all expected to be in uniform for Wednesday morning’s game.