David-Alexandre Beauregard betrays no sadness when he tells his tale. He doesn't curse the event that changed his life, nor does he dwell upon it. Beauregard, 23, is pleased to be an outstanding left wing for the Flint Generals in the United Hockey League (UHL) and proud that the 51 goals he had scored in 67 games through Saturday was the second-best total in the low-rung circuit. Beauregard indulges in few fantasies of what might have been. Even in his dreams, he says, he has only one good eye. "That's who I am," he says. "I can't remember how things looked when I had full sight."
In the fall of 1994 Beauregard, then 18, was a premier sniper for the St. Hyacinthe Lasers of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He had been the 11th-round pick of the San Jose Sharks the previous June.
Swift and nimble with the puck, Beauregard was on a breakaway in a Lasers game against the Granby Bisons on Oct. 16, 1994, when Bisons winger—Xavier Delisle lunged and tried to stop Beauregard with his stick. In a horrifying accident Delisle's blade rode up Beauregard's body, slipped beneath his visor and gouged his left eye. In an instant Beauregard was blind in that eye.
The stick blade had punctured Beauregard's eye, draining its humors and severing crucial blood vessels. The eye sagged, not unlike a deflated balloon, and Beauregard underwent surgery in which a soft plastic ball was sewn into his eye to reaffirm its natural shape.
Within a week Beauregard was skating informally with teammates. He would put his stick down to receive a pass, and the puck would glide by several feet away. He bumbled into the boards. Off the ice Beauregard was Captain Klutz, knocking over water glasses at the dinner table, reaching to shake an extended hand and missing it. Still, he kept his poise and spent hours on the ice each day, and gradually began to regain his spatial sense. When he announced in early '95 that he planned to make a comeback, the naysayers emerged from every recess in the province of Quebec, warning him that he could be killed by a blindside check.
On Jan. 16, 1995, Beauregard suited up for St. Hyacinthe and scored a goal against Val d'Or Foreurs. He played 19 more games that year, with modest success, but he was fearful. Playing behind a full face shield, as he does today, Beauregard swiveled his head incessantly and flinched at passing shadows. "I was scared someone would hit me and I'd fall down, paralyzed," says Beauregard. "But over time the fear started going away. Now I know when someone's going to hit me on my left side. I don't know how, but I'm always ready. It's like a sixth sense."
Despite his comeback with St. Hyacinthe, Beauregard was left unprotected in an expansion draft and was selected by the Moncton Alpines. When he scored 34 goals in 41 games in 1995, the financially strapped Alpines sold him for $100,000 to the Hull Olympiques, who in '96-97 traded him to the Shawnigan Cataractes. All told, Beauregard scored 67 goals in 94 games over the '95-96 and '96-97 seasons. Last year he was named rookie of the year in the Central Hockey League after he scored 42 goals in 57 games for the Wichita Thunder. He started this season with the UHL Muskegon Fury but was again traded, this time to the Generals in February.
Beauregard talks of moving up to the American or International League, the top minor leagues, in which he has made brief appearances. He hopes to play in Europe someday. The NHL is not an option: It bars players with Beauregard's condition.
In the small cities of the UHL, Beauregard visits hospitals and talks to children about his disability. Other players say he inspires them as they grind through the season. Not even the pond scum that surfaces now and then—the opponents who skate over and snarl, "I'm going to take your other eye"—dampens Beauregard's zest. "Happy," says Flint—goalie Jean-Yves Dube. "He is always happy."
Beauregard can catch a football and hit a baseball, and his driver's license has no restrictions. Yet, he says, "some things are hard. When a fly is buzzing around, I have no idea where it is, but that's because I haven't worried about it. If I practiced, I could catch that fly. I've learned there's a solution to every problem."