Portland Press Hearald
Ex-UMaine player may lose eye after AHL scuffle
By MIKE LOWE
LOWELL, Mass. - It will be another couple of days before doctors can determine whether Jeff Libby, the Waterville native who once starred at the University of Maine, will regain vision or lose his right eye after being injured in a game in Newfoundland Saturday night.
Maple Leafs team physician Dick Barter said Libby's eye was so badly damaged that doctors planned to discuss today whether to remove it altogether. He said Libby was groggy, but recovering, and in stable condition at the Health Sciences Center in St. John's.
Libby was not wearing a protective visor.
Lowell Coach Frank Anzalone said the next three days are vital.
''The No. 1 thing is to get the eye healthy so it can stay in its place, whether he has vision or not,'' said Anzalone, who visited Libby at the hospital before Libby had a five-hour emergency surgery. ''They don't want any flare-ups or infections that could
affect the other eye. It's a three-day process.''
The 24-year-old Libby, who was on the verge of winning a regular
spot in Lowell's lineup, was injured in Saturday's 4-2 win for Lowell in St. John's, Newfoundland.
The accident happened as Libby and another defender were attempting stop a drive by Maple Leafs player Mark Deyell. As
Deyell skated between the two, the other defender upended Deyell, whose heel struck Libby in the face.
Libby suffered a laceration to his face and eye and underwent five hours of emergency surgery.
''If there was a perfect connection, in the negative sense, that was it,'' said Anzalone, who said he coached another player - Brian Valentine of Wheeling in the ECHL - who lost an eye in a similar accident.
When Anzalone talked to Libby, Libby was at first concerned about his career.
''I told him, 'I'm not going to B.S. you, this is serious,' '' said Anzalone. ''Then I said it was important for him to focus on the eye
and getting better and not to focus on hockey. Before I left, he said, 'Coach, I just want to get this over with.' ''
The Lock Monsters, who arrived home at 10 a.m. Sunday and played the Portland Pirates seven hours later, said a prayer for
Libby on the ice before he left.
''The guys handled it well,'' said Anzalone. ''It's on their minds, but they have accepted it as a momentary atrocity of the game.''
Lowell assistant coach Paul Jerrard stayed in St. John's with Libby. Libby's parents were flown in on Sunday.
Libby had played in five games, with no points. He was a plus-3.
''This was one of those bad, bad moments,'' said Anzalone. ''For the next couple of days, the prayers of the people of Lowell
would be extremely valuable.''
St. John's Telegram
Lowell completed a two-game American Hockey League sweep of the St. Johns Maple Leafs Saturday night with
a 4-2 victory at Memorial Stadium, but the Lock Monsters werent in a celebrating mood following the game.
Their thoughts were with teammate Jeff Libby, who was rushed to hospital after being cut on the eye by a skate.
Libby, a 24-year-old defenceman from Waterville, Me., was trailing the play when the Leafs Mark Deyell was
upended by a Lowell player. Deyells skate came up and caught Libby in the eye area.
The Lowell player, bleeding profusely, immediately left the ice.
Its the most tragic thing Ive seen here, said Maple Leafs team physician Dr. Dick Barter. And it was a freaky play,
Barter said Libby was scheduled to undergo surgery late last night, but the prognosis isnt good.
Well have to wait and see, but the chances of him getting his sight back are about 10 per cent. Its a very bad injury. The eyeball was cut, said Barter.
The tragic incident ruined what otherwise was a successful return to Stadium ice for Lowell goaltender Marcel Cousineau.
Cousineau, a three-time Molson Cup winner for the Maple Leafs, made his first appearance in St. Johns after signing with the
New York Islanders as a free agent over the summer.
It puts things into perspective, Cousineau said. But when I have a bad game and I come home and my baby (20-month-old
Alex) is crying, I hold him in my arms. That puts things into perspective too.
Its not a pleasant thing to see when something like this happens, whether its your teammate or not. All our prayers are with Jeff right now.
Eye injury looking bad
BY LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun
A five-hour operation late Saturday night likely was not enough to save the right eye of Islanders prospect Jeff Libby. The
defenceman suffered the freak injury in an AHL game in St. John's when Maple Leafs forward Mark Deyell was sandwiched by two players of the Lowell Lock Monsters, causing his skate to fly upward and slice Libby's right eyeball as he trailed the play. A few fans among 3,200 in attendance became ill as they saw Libby hold a blood-soaked towel to his
face as he left the ice. "The odds are against him (regaining sight), but where there's a chance, there's hope," Lowell team
spokesman Randy Sieminski said last night.
Dr. John McNicholas, ophthalmologist at the Health Science Centre in St. John's, was attending the 24-year-old Libby, assisted by Leafs team doctor Dick Barter.
"The skate cut with considerable force," Barter told the St. John's Evening Telegram. "The eyelid is quite dreadful." Barter said
the injury could have been prevented had Libby been wearing a visor. "My (11-year-old) son was at the game and he said, 'Dad, I'll never play hockey without a visor.' If there's some good that came out of it, I think Jeff would like it that way."
Islanders team doctors will be consulted before the next step is taken. If the eye is to be removed, it must be done in the next few days or vision in the healthy eye will start to be affected. Libby is listed in stable condition. His parents arrived from Waterville, Me., last night, while St. John's and Lowell fans sent him get well messages all day.
Libby spent three years playing at the University of Maine, before being signed by the Isles last year. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder played one game for New York in 1997-98, splitting the season with Utah of the IHL and Kentucky of the AHL.
Serious eye injury fells Lock Monster player Next days critical to defenseman Jeff Libby
Monday, November 09, 1998
By BARRY SCANLON
LOWELL -- Lowell Lock Monsters defenseman Jeff Libby, cut across the face by a skate during a horrific accident Saturday
night, remains in a Canadian hospital with a serious eye injury.
At best, the popular 24-year-old from Waterville, Maine, will lose nearly all the sight in his right eye. In a worse-case scenario,
doctors would be forced to remove the eye.
"It's real serious," said Tom Rowe, the team's general manager. "It's not just a casual eye injury. Obviously this is a business, but when something like this happens it puts everything into perspective real quick."
Coach Frank Anzalone asked that Lock Monsters fans pray for Libby, who underwent five hours of surgery yesterday.
Libby was injured during the second period of Lowell's game against the Maple Leafs in St. John's, Newfoundland. The injury
occurred when St. John's player Mark Deyell was upended, causing his skates to leave the ice, and one of them sliced across
St. John's team physician Dick Barter told reporters after the game that Libby had a 10 percent chance of regaining sight in his
Libby was not wearing a protective visor. Unlike collegiate players, professionals are not required to wear visors.
Bleeding profusely, Libby was given immediate on-ice treatment and then rushed from St. John's Memorial Stadium to a nearby hospital, Health Sciences Center in St. John's. Lock Monsters spokesman Randy Sieminski and athletic trainer Chris Kingsley praised St. John's officials for their quick reaction.
"He had a serious eye injury," said Kingsley, who rushed from the Monsters bench to tend to Libby. "He was dealing with it as
well as can be expected."
The next couple of days are crucial to Libby's recovery. Libby is expected to remain at Health Sciences Center for a few more
days. When he's deemed able to fly, Libby will likely be transported to Boston for further medical treatment.
"The No. 1 thing is to keep the eye healthy so it can stay in its spot, whether it has vision or not," said Anzalone, who visited Libby in the hospital after Saturday's game.
Doctors told Anzalone they are concerned that Libby's damaged eye could become infected. In that case, doctors may opt to
remove Libby's right eye so the infection doesn't spread to his healthy eye.
"It's that bad of an injury. It's like his (damaged) eye is under intensive care," Anzalone said. "The next two or three days are
going to dictate that. They're going to watch him very carefully."
Libby, a 6-foot-3-inch, 215-pound defenseman with good offensive skills, was scoreless in five games this season. Libby turned pro after three years at the University of Maine. He played one game last season with the National Hockey League's New York Islanders, the parent team of the Lock Monsters, but spent the majority of the year in the minor leagues.
During Anzalone's visit, Libby expressed concern that his hockey career would be over.
"I said, 'Jeff, I'm not going to b.s. you. You've got a serious injury. Right now you focus on your eye getting better. Don't think
about hockey right now,' " said Anzalone.
Libby's injury silenced the 3,200 fans at St. John's Memorial Stadium, even though most in the building, including Libby's
teammates, thought Libby fell to the ice because he had been hit in the face with a deflected puck.
Sieminski said fans were "concerned and shocked, I think. It was a pretty scary moment. It was dead quiet."
Although Libby's injury resulted from a freakish accident, Deyell offered his apology to Libby, and St. John's players visited
Libby's hospital room yesterday and fans sent him get-well cards.
"He's a great guy. Everyone likes him on the team," Rowe said. "It's tough. He's only two years out of college. He was making
great strides. (But) I could care less about the hockey side of it."
Lowell assistant coach Paul Jerrard stayed with Libby until yesterday, when Lowell native Mike Santos, a New York Islanders
assistant general manager, flew to St. John's to be with Libby.
The Lock Monsters also had to deal with the news that the father of defenseman Mike Gaul had been killed Saturday in a car
At the conclusion of last night's game, a 6-4 victory over Portland at Tsongas Arena, the Lock Monsters players, at the urging of defenseman Zdeno Chara, gathered for a prayer.
"You don't see that (closeness) in pro sports," said Anzalone.
Mike Kennedy should have been ecstatic about last night's win, especially since he recorded the first three-goal game in the brief history of the Lock Monsters.
His first words to reporters, however, reflected his heavy heart: "It's pretty tough. I woke up every 15 minutes last night thinking about Jeff Libby."
ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland (AP) -- The capacity crowd of 3,200 hockey fans fell silent as
a bleeding Jeff
Libby collapsed on the ice.
In what by all accounts was a freak accident, the Lowell Lock Monster was hit in the right eye with the blade of another player's skate in Saturday's contest with the St. John's Maple Leafs.
On Sunday, after undergoing five hours of surgery, the 24-year-old defenseman was in the prayers of players from both teams.
"When you play sports, it's competitive," said Glenn Stanford, Maple Leafs director of operations. "But sports and winning pales in comparison to what happened here last night. Our hearts go out to him."
Maple Leafs team physician Dick Barter told reporters after the game that Libby had a 10 percent chance of regaining sight in his eye. Lock Monster spokesman Randy Sieminski said Libby was recovering at the hospital and that his parents planned to travel Sunday from his hometown of Waterville, Maine. Libby's condition was not immediately available from the hospital Sunday.
The accident happened at St. John's Memorial Stadium as Libby and another defender were attempting stop a drive by Maple
Leafs player Mark Deyell. As Deyell skated between the two, the other defender upended Deyell, whose leg struck Libby in the face.
Bleeding profusely, Libby was walked off the ice with the help of a trainer. He was given stitches at the arena to close a large cut around his eye and then was rushed by ambulance to the nearby Health Sciences Center.
Sieminski said Libby was not wearing a mask -- a requirement for college hockey players but an optional safety measure foregone by most professionals. He said the Lock Monsters had no plans to require face masks after the accident, a decision that would rest with the American Hockey League.
Though such serious accidents are rare, Sieminski said he knows of at least two in which professional players have been
Libby was drafted last year by the New York Islanders while playing for the University of Maine. He played one game in the
National Hockey League before being transferred to the Utah Grizzlies in the International Hockey League, where he tallied one goal and five assists in 47 games.
Libby played five of 14 games for the Lock Monsters this season, and Sieminski said he was developing into a "solid contributor."
The Lock Monsters, who beat the Maple Leafs 4-2 Saturday, were hosting the Portland Pirates at home Sunday night. Sieminski said it would be difficult for the team to concentrate.
"We're hoping the best for Jeff and that he regains vision in that eye and is able to go on with his life -- whether it's hockey or
anything else," he said.
New York Newsday:
Double Tragedy for Isles Farmhands
By John Valenti
Toronto -- The Islanders organization was coping yesterday with the aftermath of a tragic weekend for two prospects on its American Hockey League affiliate, the Lowell Lock Monsters.
Defenseman Jeff Libby, 24, suffered a gruesome, and probably career-ending, eye injury against the St. John's Maple Leafs Saturday night in Newfoundland. Just hours later, Lowell defenseman Mike Gaul received word his father had been killed in a car accident earlier that night in Montreal.
Calling it "a tragic situation," a stoic Islanders coach and general manager Mike Milbury said: "It puts things in perspective. . .It's just an awful thing to have to experience."
The first tragedy occurred when Libby, a 6-3, 215-pound defenseman who signed with the Islanders as a free agent in April, 1997, attempted to block a shot by Mark Deyell of St. John's. As Deyell skated past, he was upended by another defender and the heel of his skate hit Libby in the face and right eye.
Libby, who was not wearing a protective visor, underwent five hours of surgery on the eye yesterday at General Health Sciences Hospital in St. John's. Doctors, however, said it was so badly damaged it may have to be removed. He is scheduled to meet with a retina specialist this week at New England Eye and Ear Hospital or Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital.
"There was extensive damage to the retina," said St. John's team physician Richard Barter, who called it "a freak accident."
Libby, who played at the University of Maine from 1993-97, Utah (IHL) and Kentucky (AHL), attended preseason camp with the Islanders before he was sent to Lowell. He appeared in one game last season for the Islanders.
"When I heard about it, I couldn't believe it," said Mark Lawrence, a right wing who was promoted from Lowell to the Islanders on Oct. 27. "You don't realize what can happen to you. It takes one incident and your career is over. You realize you can't withstand everything."
Meanwhile, details remained unavailable on the car accident involving Gaul's
"It's a tragic weekend for Lowell," Lawrence said. "Tragic."
PILON FEELS ISLES FARMHAND'S PAIN
By ANTHONY McCARRON
Daily News Sports Writer
TORONTO - When Rich Pilon heard about the horrible eye injury that Islanders prospect Jeff Libby suffered in a minor-league game Saturday, "My stomach kind of got weird. I almost wanted to get sick."
That's because the veteran Isles defenseman has an idea of what Libby is going through. Pilon sustained a career-threatening eye injury when a shot by current Ranger Brent Fedyk hit him on the right eyeball in a game against Detroit on Nov. 4, 1989, Pilon's second year in the league. Pilon missed the season's final 66 games.
Libby, playing with the Isles' AHL affiliate in Lowell, Mass., was hurt when an opposing player's skate blade sliced his right eyeball. The opponent was upended, causing his feet to go up in the air and Libby was trailing the play when he was struck. Doctors estimated that there was a 10% chance to save his eye, placing Libby's career in jeopardy.
"I'm definitely going to call him," Pilon said. "As much as he might think he can't play, he's got the rest of his life in front of him. Playing hockey isn't everything.
"I'm going to try and cheer him up. I know how I was when it happened to me. I thought it was the end of the world. I remember the positive stuff really helped a lot. The situation could be a lot worse."
When the puck struck Pilon, it shattered his right orbital bone, he said, and his eyeball took most of the impact. "The pain was unbelievable and I knew it was not just cut," Pilon said. "The pressure in my head was incredible."
Pilon spent two weeks in the hospital and lost some vision in his eye, but he still has his peripheral vision. "If I would have lost that, I probably wouldn't be able to play," he said.
Libby, 24, is at the General Health Science Center in Newfoundland, where he was taken after the game against St. John's, Newfoundland. His parents arrived yesterday and Malcolm McCallum, one of Lowell's owners, has offered his private plane as transport. Libby is expected to be moved to a New England hospital later this week, where he'll see a retina specialist.
Libby is a self-made player, said Islanders assistant Greg Cronin, who recruited the local kid to the University of Maine. "He was a 185-pound, skinny freshman," Cronin said. "(As a redshirt freshman), he took that year where he didn't play and made himself a 200-pounder in nine months. . . . He worked his rear end off and he elevated himself into one of the top defensemen
in Hockey East."
Cronin said that Libby had been playing more at Lowell after starting the season with a lesser role. Libby was signed as a free agent in 1997 and played one game with the Isles last season.
Mark Lawrence, who was called up from Lowell about two weeks ago, played golf and ate pregame meals with Libby when the two were teammates.
"Jeff is such a great guy, funny to talk to, always in a good mood," Lawrence said. "I found out and I couldn't believe it. It's a terrible thing. You go along and you don't realize what can happen. It just takes one nick, your career is over. It makes you realize you can't withstand everything."
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