Lowell Sun:

Injured Lock Monster says his future is still bright

Tuesday, November 10, 1998
Sun Staff

LOWELL -- Injured Lowell Lock Monsters player Jeff Libby, says he's "still the same person," and is excited about the future, even if he never plays hockey again.

Libby is waiting for more tests on his right eye, which was seriously injured during a hockey game last week.

"I don't think it's even hit me yet, even to this day ... maybe when I go to the rink and see the guys laughing it will hit me," Libby told The Sun last night in a telephone conversation from his hospital room at the Health Sciences Center in St. John's, Newfoundland. "I've talked to a few people who played with one eye and it's not impossible, but at this particular moment it's not the first thing on my mind."

Libby was expected to be discharged from the Canadian hospital today and flown to Boston. He will be admitted to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. He underwent five hours of surgery Sunday at the St. John's hospital to repair extensive damage to his eye.

The Waterville, Maine, native was injured in a fluke accident in which the skate blade of a St. John's Maple Leafs player cut across his face when the opposing player lost his balance.

The medical reports on Libby's injured eye are not promising. At worst, doctors may have to remove his right eye so that it doesn't become infected and put his healthy eye at risk. In a best-case scenario, he will regain vision in his damaged eye, even if it's minimal.

Libby said he appreciates all the support he's received, especially from his teammates.

"They tell me they're thinking of me and that there's more to life than the game of hockey. I let them know that I'm still the same person. I'll be able to do 99 percent of the things I did before. I must have received 100 calls in the past two days. The response has been remarkable. It's great to know that they're out there and that they care," Libby said.

Libby was scheduled to be flown to Boston aboard the private plane of Elkin McCallum, one of the Lock Monsters owners. The New York Islanders, the parent club of the Lock Monsters, also offered to fly Libby back to the United States.

General manager Tom Rowe flew to Newfoundland yesterday afternoon and he met Libby and his parents, Bill and Cindy Libby, and Mike Santos, a Lowell native who is an assistant general manager of the New York Islanders.

Libby was rushed to the Health Sciences Center following the second-period injury which silenced the crowd of 3,200 at St. John's Memorial Stadium.

"I thought I was hit by a shot, to tell you the truth. I knew something was bad right away," he said.

Just by the way doctors were looking at him, Libby said he knew "it wasn't a pretty sight."

A 6-foot-3, 215-pound defenseman, Libby played in five of 14 games with the Lock Monsters, registering no points but having a plus-minus rating of plus-two.

Last year was Libby's first as a professional after a three-year career at the University of Maine. He played eight games with Kentucky of the AHL, 47 with Utah of the International Hockey League and the apex of his career occurred when he skated for one game with the National Hockey League's New York Islanders.

Libby feels bad that his father never saw him play a pro game. He's hoping that he somehow can play again. But if he doesn't, Libby, who is "six or seven" credits short of graduating from the University of Maine, is ready for life after hockey.

"I knew this day would come one day. I just didn't think it would come this soon," he said. "Hockey is not everything. I'm kind of excited, but I'm kind of scared at the same time."

For Tuesday, November 10, 1998

Boston specialist to examine Libby's eye 11/10/98

By ROBIN SHORT Telegram Sports Editor

There’s 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. John’s Maple Leafs’ Mark Deyell’s 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 didn’t remove his eyeball, Smyth has no vision in the eye. He’s 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 PHPA’s 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 didn’t 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. John’s Monday, was unsure if Libby was covered.

"I can’t 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 PHPA’s 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. John’s 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 doesn’t anticipate problems as there is already little pressure in Libby’s eyeball.

Doctors in St. John’s 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, it’s most likely he’ll 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.

Salt Lake City-Tribune

Tuesday, November 10, 1998

Many Help Libby After Eye Injury

By Brett Prettyman

It is unfortunate what it takes for people to realize hockey is just a game. Saturday, former Utah Grizzlies defenseman Jeff Libby was cut in the eye with a skate and will likely lose his vision in that eye.

Libby, playing with the Lowell Lock Monsters in the American Hockey League, was standing in front of a St. John's Maple Leafs skater when the player lost his balance. Mark Deyell's feet came up and hit Libby in the face, lacerating his eyeball.

``Jeff wasn't falling, he was still on his feet when it happened,'' said Mark McArthur, Libby's teammate and former Utah goalie. ``He immediately dropped to the ice. It was obvious he was in pain.''

Libby had five hours of emergency surgery Saturday and was still in Newfoundland early Monday as doctors waited for him to stabilize before transporting him to Boston's Eye & Ear Hospital.

Libby hasn't been alone since the accident happened. A Lowell player went with him to the hospital and an official from the New York Islanders -- the team he is under contract with -- has been with him as well. The National Hockey League team is flying in the 24-year-old's family.

The owners of the Lock Monsters are flying him on their private jet to Boston. ``He is getting unbelievable attention,'' said McArthur. ``Lowell and New York are doing everything they can to make him comfortable and to help repair the damage.''

Greg Carvel, director of hockey operations for the Lock Monsters, said early reports of a 10 percent chance of Libby regaining his eye sight were accurate.

``With an eye injury you have to be extremely careful. One eye being ill can affect the other eye,'' said Carvel. ``We have to wait and see what the extent of the damage is and what can be done in Boston.''

Letters and cards for Libby can be sent to: Lowell Lock Monsters, Tsongas Arena, 300 Arcand Dr., Lowell, Mass. 01852.


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.

Lowell hockey player undergoes surgery to remove damaged eye

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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