Injured Lock Monster says his future is still bright
For Tuesday, November 10, 1998
Boston specialist to examine Libby's eye11/10/98
By ROBIN SHORT Telegram Sports EditorTheres probably not enough money in Fort Knox to compensate Jeff Libby for the loss of his vision in one eye, but the young hockey player could receive some stipend as a result of his accident last weekend. The Lowell Lock Monsters defenceman received a devastating cut to his right eye and eyelid after getting clipped by the St. Johns Maple Leafs Mark Deyells skate during an American Hockey League game Saturday night at the Stadium. Libby, 24, underwent four hours of surgery early Sunday morning by ophthalmic surgeon Dr. John McNicholas. He will be airlifted to Boston today for further examination where a decision will be made on whether or not to remove the eye. With the exception of Kevin Smyth of the Orlando Solar Bears last season, few hockey players have returned to the game following a serious eye injury. Smyth was struck in the eye by a puck two years during an International Hockey League game. While doctors didnt remove his eyeball, Smyth has no vision in the eye. Hes now playing in Tacoma of the West Coast Hockey League. Larry Landon, executive director of the Professional Hockey Players Association, the union which represents minor leaguers, said if Libby cannot play pro hockey again, he can collect a $40,000 U.S. tax free disability benefit under the PHPAs collective bargaining agreement. In addition, the native of Waterville, Me., will be paid by the parent New York Islanders for the duration of his contract. Landon didnt know if the Islanders had additional insurance on the second-year pro out of the University of Maine. And Mike Santos, the Islanders assistant GM who was in St. Johns Monday, was unsure if Libby was covered. "I cant tell you right off the top of my head," Santos said. "Right now, our only concern is getting Jeff the best medical attention." If Libby is unable to play again, Landon said he can take advantage of the PHPAs brand-new Career Enhancement Program which helps its members ease into a post-hockey career. While Libby will have some money available to help him start a new life if he can no longer play, it pales in comparison to the money he could make if his career lasts for another five or six years. "This demonstrates why players and or teams should secure additional insurance," Landon said from St. Catharines, Ont. "This will be discussed by our benefits department so that it gets the attention of our membership." A private plane was dispatched to St. Johns Monday night by the Islanders owners, New York Sports Ventures, to transport Libby to Boston. There was some fear Libby would be unable to fly, but Dr. Dick Barter, a Health Sciences Centre emergency room physician and one of the Leafs team doctors, said McNicholas doesnt anticipate problems as there is already little pressure in Libbys eyeball. Doctors in St. Johns have been reluctant to remove the eye, but Barter figures that will likely be the decision made in Boston. "In my experience, given the extent of this eye injury, its most likely hell lose the vision in the eye and probably the eyeball," he said. Libby, who refused an interview request, was in stable condition Monday and was supported by his parents and members of the Maple Leafs who dropped by for a visit. Libby split the 1997-98 season between Utah of the IHL and Kentucky of the AHL last season. However, he did appear in one game with the Islanders. This year, he was held pointless in five games with Lowell.
University of Maine Campus Newsletter
By Bill Stewart
Maine Campus staff
It always seems to come in cycles.
The University of Maine hockey program was rocked with another calamity this week when it learned that former Black Bear Jeff Libby suffered an injury that in all likelihood will end his skating career. Libby, who played for Maine from 1995-97, suffered a severe eye laceration during a game last weekend in St. John's when playing for the AHL's Lowell Lockmonsters in a play that has been described as "freaky."
Libby, 24, was rushed to the Health Science Center in St. John's last Saturday night after catching a skate in his eye from St. John's Mark Deyell's skate. Deyell was apparently upended by a Lockmonster player and his skate cut deep into the area of his eyes. According to Maine hockey coach Shawn Walsh, Libby underwent preliminary surgery and was relocated to Boston's Eye and Ear Infirmary yesterday.
"The fear is that he may lose an eye," Walsh said. "It appears his playing days are over, but when I talked to him he was in high spirits." Although no doctor could comment on the situation, Mary Leach, director of public affairs at Massachusetts Eye and Infirmary, said Libby received a lengthy evaluation last night before being discharged from the infirmary.
"He's been evaluated," she said. "His duration of stay really depends on his prognosis." At approximately 7:15 last night, Libby was discharged from the infirmary and is scheduled to make return visits for further tests.
Walsh received word his former standout defenseman was injured when Libby's agent
phoned him with the news.
"He said I've got some bad news for you," Walsh said. "My initial thought was paralysis."
Upon hearing the news, members of the Black Bears who had a chance to play with Libby
felt the shock waves.
"It was devastating to hear," said senior captain David Cullen, who roomed with Libby on road trips. "It definitely goes to show how fast things can end. Our hearts go out to him."
"I was shocked," Maine's Hobey Baker candidate Steve Kariya said. "We just hung out with him over the JC Penney weekend. What happened was so tragic."
While news of the injury rippled through the program, Cullen and Kariya acknowledged how life and hockey were put into perspective. "Whether you have a bad game or a bad day it just puts everything into
perspective," Kariya said. "I think everyone takes their health for granted. Hockey wise, you just never know when it is going to end." "It shows how fast things can end," Cullen said.
The accident was the second to shake the program recently as it comes in the wake of the death of former hockey player Lee Saunders, who died this summer in Europe.
"Libby's accident isn't a tragedy like Lee's," Walsh said. "Libby's is more a setback, he just has to do a different career."
Libby, although born in Germany, is from Waterville where he played for coach Bob Ewell at New Hampton Prep after four years at Waterville High School
The former All-State choice helped lead Waterville to the state championship in 1990-91. While at Maine, Libby recorded 37 points in 68 games, including eight goals before being offered a lucrative contract with the Islanders.
The offer prompted Libby to leave school early and sign a professional contract.
One of several hockey Bears the program has seen leave school early to pursue a professional career, Libby has indicated he plans to finish his degree here. "It would be important," Walsh said.
Thursday / November 12, 1998
Libby Undergoes Surgery
Islanders News Release
November 12, 1998 -- Jeff Libby underwent an enucleation (removal) of his right eye this afternoon at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston. The 90-minute procedure was performed by Frank Sutula, M.D., an ophthalmologist at the hospital.
"The procedure went as well as could be expected," said Dr. Sutula. "This is just the first step in a multi-stage process. He will need more surgery in the future. However, since Jeff is such a superb, healthy athlete, we expect him to do well."
Said Jeff's father, Bill Libby: "We're looking forward to getting past this stage and help Jeff with the next steps in his life. Our family would like to thank the fans, players, management and staffs of the New York Islanders and Lowell Lock Monsters, whose support was tremendous over the last week. We would also like to mention the wonderful people of St. John's,
Newfoundland. The community was so good to our family when we first came to visit our son."
Libby was injured while playing for the Lowell Lock Monsters of the American Hockey League on Saturday night in Newfoundland. The incident occurred when a St. John's player, skating for the puck, was knocked off balance by a
check. His leg swung behind his body and struck Libby, who was leaning forward to play the puck.
Libby, 24, was signed by the Islanders as a free agent in the summer of 1997 after four years at the University of Maine. Correspondence to Jeff Libby should be sent c/o the Lowell Lock Monsters, 300 Arcane Dr., Lowell, MA 01852.
Associated Press, 11/12/98 19:10
BOSTON (AP) - Jeff Libby, who was hit in the face with the blade of another player's skate during a pro hockey game last weekend, had his badly damaged right eye removed Thursday.
Libby, 24, underwent the 90-minute procedure at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
``This is just the first step in a multistage process,'' Dr. Frank Sutula, who performed the operation, said.
Liobby, a defenseman for Lowell, was injured Saturday in a freak accident during a game against St. John's in Newfoundland.
The accident happened when a St. John's player, skating for the puck, was knocked off balance by a check. His leg swung behind his body and struck Libby, who was leaning forward to play the puck.
Libby was not wearing a protective visor, a requirement for college hockey players but an optional safety measure foregone by most professionals.
Libby was drafted last year by the New York Islanders while playing for the University of Maine.
After the operation, Libby and his parents returned to their home in Waterville, Maine.
``We're looking forward to getting past this stage and helping Jeff with the next steps in his life,'' his father, Bill Libby, said in a statement.
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