Tag: eye injuries

Mike Mottau

Mike Mottau reflects upon being ‘lucky’ enough to survive eye injury

Hockey players can be lucky in plenty of instances. A player can put together a hot streak – particularly during the playoffs – in which an unusual amount of his shots go in. Goalies might not like it, but sometimes they really do get lucky when a puck hits their posts.

It’s hard to believe a player would call himself lucky after a puck hit him in the eye, though.

That’s the perspective that New York Islanders defenseman Mike Mottau shared on Friday, however. Mottau took a wayward Zach Bogosian shot to his right eye during a scary incident on Nov. 21, 2010, forcing him to spend multiple nights in an Atlanta hospital and end his season in the process.

The important thing to Mottau is that it could have been worse – both for his eye and for his hockey career. He’ll be able to continue playing at the NHL level because of how the puck landed, which he explained to Tom Gulitti.

“I was awful lucky and fortunate that it hit the way it hit,” said Mottau, who is at Prudential Center tonight with the Islanders to face his former team in a preseason game. “It was rolling and it hit me this way (as if it was standing on edge), so it was above and below. (Otherwise) the rounded edge would have hit my eye instead of being flat and would have squished it.”

There was permanent damage to the eye and he was cut above and below it, but he suffered no broken bones and his vision is “intact.”

“The eye is permanently dilated, but it’s still good enough to play,” the 33-year-old defenseman explained. “The vision is intact, but the light affects it. So, it’s something I’ve had to get used to.”

Because his pupil is dilated, his eye is more sensitive to light. He said it doesn’t not bother him on the ice, though.

When it comes to this injury, it’s all relative. Mottau’s former teammate Colin White also fought through a serious eye injury (which occurred in 2007). Mottau explained that while they went through some of the same things, White’s situation was “much worse.”

Mottau admitted that he could have avoided that injury if he wore a visor, which he plans on wearing voluntarily going forward. He explained why he didn’t wear one in the NHL after donning a full cage during his NCAA career.

“It was just one of those things where you have the freedom to do it,” he said. “You’re wearing a full cage and you get to take it off. At the time, there weren’t a ton of visors in the league and I don’t know if it’s an ego thing. It’s not like I was a heavyweight by any means. I just kind of gave me that freedom of not having it, being a professional.”

It’s difficult to scold NHL players for refusing to wear visors, even if it’s somewhat infuriating that they take an “It won’t happen to me” stance after seeing gruesome injuries to the likes of Steve Yzerman. One imagines it is only a matter of time before they become mandatory, but in the mean time, let’s hope that more players learn their lesson before they take a puck to the eye.

Amazingly, Manny Malhotra skated with the Canucks today


While I highly doubt* that he has any chance to return for the playoffs, Vancouver Canucks center Manny Malhotra skated with the team and on his own today. (This link contains brief video footage of Malhotra skating.)

In case you’re wondering, the Canucks lost Malhotra for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs when he was struck in the eye by a puck. The fact that he was skating today doesn’t change that, but it could be a heartening (yet small) step forward in his recovery process.

The Canucks found a way to get to the Western Conference finals without their excellent penalty-killing depth center, but his presence might be missed the most in Round 3. Whether Vancouver’s opponent is the Detroit Red Wings or San Jose Sharks, the team’s penalty kill will be pushed to the limit in either situation. The Red Wings and Sharks are also strong squads in the faceoff circle, another area of dominance for Malhotra. (That being said, Ryan Kesler isn’t far behind Malhotra in faceoff winning skills, so they probably won’t get killed in that category either.)

Here are Canucks GM Mike Gillis’ comments on Malhotra’s comeback prospects and the team’s expectations, via Ben Kuzuma of the Vancouver Province.

“I have no answer for that question,” said Canucks general manager Mike Gillis. “Today was about taking the next step in his recovery and he wanted to do some light skating,” said Gillis. “This is just a small step in his recovery. There is no timetable and there’s no schedule with an injury like this. He’s at this point because everything seems to be stable and it’s just another step. We’ve never asked and we’ve never been given a timeline.

“It’s about how he’s recovering. It’s basically day-by-day, week-by-week and month-by-month. We’re optimistic and just holding our breath about his ability to continue to recover. His recovery is the paramount thing and we’ll make decisions along the way and it never entered into our minds about playing, this is about his health. We’re just going to let the process take whatever time it requires.”

No doubt about it, Malhotra is far from ready to return and might not ever have the necessary range of vision to return to NHL competition.

The two most prominent examples of somewhat similar eye injuries happened to Detroit Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman and journeyman offensive defenseman Bryan Berard. Yzerman retired after suffering an eye injury while Berard’s promising young career was greatly altered when Marian Hossa’s stick accidentally caught him in the eye. Berard improbably played parts of six seasons after that injury, but he never regained the form that made him the first overall pick of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft and the 1996-97 Calder Trophy winner.

It’s possible Malhotra’s career hasn’t turned out the way some expected when he was the No. 7 overall pick of the ’98 draft, but he found a way to make himself an extremely useful NHL player. It would be a real shame to see his career cut short at age 31, but we’ll have to wait and see if he can make a comeback.

Today’s practice was the heartening first step.

* Make that “highly, highly, highly” doubt it.

Mike Mottau taken to hospital after puck hits his eye

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Unfortunately, there haven’t been any updates in the last hour, but the New York Islanders faced a much tougher situation than continuing their losing streak (which they did) today. Defenseman Mike Mottau was taken to the hospital after a puck struck him in the eye, according to Katie Strang.

Again, I haven’t heard an update on Mottau’s condition since Strang’s update, but we’ll keep an eye on the situation as news trickles in.

To give you some perspective (without seeing a clip of the injury), eye injuries have been career-ending or career-altering events for a handful of players. Steve Yzerman and Al MacInnis were forced into early retirement because of eye injuries, while Bryan Berard went from a bright young defenseman to a marginal NHL player after a brutal stick to the eye.

Does this mean that Mottau’s career is over? By no means, but it’s difficult not to worry if this might impact his career (or even his vision off the ice) permanently. We’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best, but it’s a scary situation to say the least.