Injured Vancouver Canucks forward Manny Malhotra made his first public comments since suffering a potentially career-ending eye injury last month, and revealed that two surgeries have successfully restored his vision.
Malhotra, who was hit in the left eye by a deflected puck on March 16 in a game against the Colorado Avalanche, did not say how much of his vision has returned, or whether he would attempt to return to the NHL next season. A comeback this season has already been ruled out, even if the Canucks compete for the Stanley Cup into June, but Malhotra expressed optimism about his long-term prognosis.
"I will forever be grateful to the incredible group of surgeons both in Vancouver and New York who performed two successful surgeries, to restore the vision in my eye," Malhotra said in the statement. "Although there is a lot of recovery and healing to take place, I am very optimistic for a good outcome."
Since undergoing a second procedure on March 29, reports have surfaced that the best-case scenario is that 80 per cent of Malhotra's vision returns. It is clear that Vancouver doctors, who performed emergency surgery within hours of the injury, knew they were in a battle to save Malhotra's vision, and that some damage would be permanent.
The first procedure was to reduce the swelling around the eye, and to drain blood from the area in the immediate aftermath. A second surgery, by Dr. Stanley Chang on March 29 in New York, was also considered pivotal in returning vision to the eye.
Malhotra was spotted Saturday in the bowels of Rogers Arena wearing dark sunglasses. He was with his wife, Joann, the sister of NBA superstar Steve Nash and former Whitecaps FC captain Martin Nash.
"The past three weeks have been a very emotional time for myself and my family," the statement read. "I owe a great deal of thanks to a number of people. First and foremost my wife Joann who has been a pillar of strength for me and kept me focused on the best possible outcome at all times.
"Thank you to my teammates, coaches and training staff, your care and concern has meant a great deal to me. The Aquilini family [who own the Canucks] [general manager]Mike Gillis and [assistant GM]Laurence Gilman have made my recovery a priority; I have received the best possible medical care throughout this entire process. It is truly a blessing to be part of an organization with such quality, caring people and I can't thank them enough."
Malhotra continued, saying it was a pleasure to play for Canucks fans, and thanking the NHL community for its well wishes.
"I would like to thank all the players, coaches and GM's around the league, some I've never even had the chance to meet, who extended their regards and best wishes for a speedy recovery," he said in the statement. "My most heartfelt and sincere thank you to all of the incredible fans in Vancouver and around the league for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers. Your messages were a daily reminder of what a privilege it is to play for you.
"Thank you to my agent and good friend Paul Krepelka for being with me through surgery and recovery in New York. Your friendship over the years has been invaluable.
"My family and I are very grateful for the patience, concern and privacy we've been shown by the media and thank you for your continued support."