Reputation is all sewn up

Ian Laperriere had one question for Jim McCrossin when the Flyers’ trainer reached him at center ice:

“Can you see my eye?”

The small miracle of the Flyers’ becoming the first team to win a first-round series – after being the last team to squeak into the NHL playoff field – will have to take a backseat to the miracle that McCrossin’s answer was yes. Yes, Laperriere’s right eye was still there.

Third period. Flyers leading, 3-0. Laperriere was in the defensive zone as the puck came out to the point. That meant sacrificing his body to prevent a shot getting through.

This time, the puck was bouncing unevenly along the ice as New Jersey defenseman Paul Martin wound up for the shot. Martin launched a rocket as Laperriere dropped to the ice and slid toward the puck.

What followed was sickening to watch. It was terrifying to experience, enough so that it changed Laperriere’s point of view about his safety.

The puck struck Laperriere inches above his right eye. He jumped to his feet and started skating. As he crossed the blue line, the blood started spraying onto the ice, first droplets then big fat spatters of it. Laperriere finally went down again between the red line and the far blue line.

“I was a little bit in a panic mode,” Laperriere said after the Flyers eliminated the Devils. Stitches (between 60 and 70 of them) stuck out like a second eyebrow above his puffy right eye. Dried blood still stained his face.

“I couldn’t see anything out of my right eye,” he said. “That was the scary part. I came back in here and into the medical room, and I still couldn’t see. That wasn’t a good feeling. I asked Jim if he could see my eye and he said, yeah, it’s there. There were doctors in here waiting for me.”

Just a few months ago, Laperriere took a shot full in the mouth. It cost him seven teeth and required about 100 stitches to close that wound. And yet there he was, diving in front of another frozen rubber projectile.

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