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Leafs’ Berard May Lose Sight in Eye

March 12, 2000

KANATA, Ontario (AP) _ Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Bryan Berard could lose the ability to see from his right eye, which was hit by the stick of Ottawa’s Marian Hossa, the Leafs said Sunday.

Hossa was following through on a shot when his stick struck Berard in the right eye during the second period of Toronto’s 4-2 victory Saturday over the Senators.

Berard, in his fourth season in the NHL, crumpled to his knees with his forehead on the ice in a pool of blood. He was taken from Corel Centre on a stretcher and rushed to Ottawa Civic Hospital, where he underwent surgery overnight.

``The prospect of regaining vision in the eye is slim but further evaluation will take place,″ the Leafs said in a recorded message Sunday.

Berard, who turned 23 on March 5, will be taken back to Toronto when his condition is stabilized.

It will be several days, after swelling goes down and bandages are removed, before doctors can re-examine the eye and determine Berard’s long-range prognosis.

Earlier, Casey Vanden Heuvel, the Leafs’ director of hockey operations, said doctors feared Berard’s eye was damaged. ``It took a considerable amount of time to get the bleeding under control.″

Another club official said Berard may have a damaged orbital bone.

Hossa, who received a double high-sticking penalty, was shocked.

``Of course, if it’s serious, I’ll call and apologize,″ he told the Toronto Sun. ``It was an accident. I didn’t mean to do it. The puck was bouncing.″

But Leafs general manager and coach Pat Quinn didn’t buy the explanation.

``Guys who play with their sticks up like that are either dirty guys or scared guys,″ Quinn said.

Berard’s teammates, who did not practice on Sunday, were worried.

``We heard it was pretty nasty,″ said forward Steve Thomas. ``Bryan was very scared and upset.″

``I know exactly how he’s feeling,″ said Ottawa’s Chris Phillips, who started wearing a visor after suffering an eye injury two years ago. ``They told me it was along the same lines as what I had.″

Berard, from Woonsocket, R.I., has three goals and 27 assists in 64 games this season.

He was chosen first overall in the 1995 entry draft by Ottawa. He refused to play for the Senators and was traded to the Islanders, where he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 1997.

The Islanders subsequently traded Berard and a sixth-round draft pick to Toronto for goaltender Felix Potvin and a sixth-round pick in January of 1999.

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