Ever since he was scratched from the Predators' lineup on Nov. II, Nashville defenseman Jan Vopat has been itching to return to the ice. Trouble is, itching is what got him scratched in the first place. It appears that after playing hockey his whole life, Vopat has become allergic to something in his uniform and pads.
The condition developed late in the 1998-99 season, when Vopat broke out in a rash that covered most of his body. Team doctors were baffled, and Vopat visited specialists in several cities to no avail. Finally, in September, a Louisville dermatologist diagnosed the ailment as a reaction to a combination of soaps and detergent. Vopat was treated with an ointment and cleared to practice, but the condition returned within two weeks. Even worse, Vopat irritated the rash every time he broke out in a sweat. As a result he has been inactive since mid-November. "He can't sweat," says Predators coach Barry Trotz. "What can we do?"
Though he remains on injured reserve, Vopat finally returned to practice last Friday with liners sewn to the inside of his pads and uniform. "At this point all I can do is laugh about it," says Vopat, a 26-year-old Czech who has played in only six games this season after having five goals and six assists in 55 games in '98-99. "If 1 don't, I will just make myself crazy."