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Little hope

Doctors fear Berard won't regain vision in right eye

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Posted: Monday March 13, 2000 11:17 PM

  Bryan Brerard Bryan Brerard holds a towel to his right eye as he is assisted from the ice by teammate Jonas Hoglund (left). AP

TORONTO (AP) -- An errant stick could cost Bryan Berard sight in his right eye.

The Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman was struck in the eye when he was hit by the stick of Ottawa's Marian Hossa on Saturday. Berard's doctors have little hope the 23-year-old will regain vision in his right eye.

Berard underwent surgery in Ottawa after the game, and arrived in Toronto by air ambulance Monday. Doctors were expected to address his long-range prognosis at a news conference Tuesday.

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

"As soon as we saw him get hit, we knew it was very, very serious," Berard's father, Wally, said, after arriving Sunday at Ottawa Airport from Boston. "We just saw the big pile of blood."

The hit sent Berard to his knees, his forehead on the ice as a pool of blood formed. Berard, in his fourth NHL season, was taken from Corel Centre on a stretcher and rushed to Ottawa Civic Hospital, where he underwent surgery.

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

"It's not too positive, but until we've pursued all angles that we can pertaining to specialists, I don't think anybody has given up hope yet," Berard's agent, Tom Laidlaw, said. "But obviously it is a pretty serious injury."

It is suspected the orbital bone surrounding the eye was broken and Berard, who does not wear a visor, might have also suffered a cut to his eyeball.

"We saw the trainer rush out onto the ice with a towel, and a lot of things went through our minds," Wally Berard said. "He's so young, you know.

"He was living his dream. And now, I think this might be the end of his career. We've got our fingers crossed. But it looks like the end."

Hossa visited Berard on Sunday to apologize, and said the injured player showed no ill will.

"He told me not to worry about it," Hossa said. "He said it was nothing more than an accident, a freak accident.

"I didn't know what to expect, but he and his parents were really nice to me. I talked to his dad and he told me the same thing -- it was just an accident."

Berard's mother, Pam, said the family accepts Hossa's apology.

"We know it wasn't his fault," she said.

"We just want to see our son, give him a hug and tell him everything is going to be OK," she said. "Raising six kids -- four boys and two girls -- you learn to just leave things like this in the hands of God and let faith take over."

Said Wally Berard: "It's one of these freak accidents that happen in hockey. You never expect them to happen, you hope they don't happen, but they do. Our only concern right now is that Bryan is OK."

Leafs president Ken Dryden and forward Steve Thomas also visited Berard on Sunday.

"It's a tough time, and he needs to know there's a ton of people around to support him," Laidlaw told the Ottawa Citizen. "His parents are the kind of people who can deal with this."

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

"I didn't know he was behind me when I shot the puck," said Hossa, a finalist for rookie of the year last season. "After I saw lots of blood, it was scary. It's a really bad feeling. I can't do anything about it now."

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.

Because the incident was deemed accidental, Hossa was not given a major penalty.

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

"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 was chosen first 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 goalie Felix Potvin and a sixth-round pick in January of 1999.

Berard played for Team USA at the 1998 Nagano Olympics and the 1997 world championships.

Related information
Toronto wins fifth straight
Leafs defenseman sustains serious eye injury
Leafs' Berard could lose vision in right eye
Ottawa's Marian Hossa says he did intend to injure Bryan Berard. (192 K)
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