Tim Brent felt the end of the stick blade hit him in the face, scratch his nose and then his left eye.
And suddenly he couldn't see.
The Toronto Maple Leafs centre reached up to touch his eye, mostly to make sure it was still there. When his vision finally began to come back, 10 minutes later, he resolved to wear a visor from then on.
Through the whole ordeal, all Brent could think about was former teammate Jordan Smith, who lost an eye in a game when the two were playing with the Portland Pirates in the AHL in February, 2006.
"It really was scary," Brent said. "I put my own finger in my eye to make sure it was still there. I honestly thought I lost it."
Brent said it still haunts him remembering Smith, a promising young defenceman in his first pro season, leaving the ice after taking a puck to the eye area, more than five years ago. Smith had to retire from pro hockey, and the AHL made visors mandatory in the league the following season.
"His eye looked like a squashed grape," Brent said. "That's honestly the first thing that popped into my head. Just a really scary experience. You don't want to have anyone to feel that way ever."
The errant high stick was that of Buffalo Sabres forward Tyler Ennis, who wasn't penalized on the play on Saturday night. Leafs coach Ron Wilson said he believes plays like that are why visors should be mandatory throughout hockey, not just in the AHL and junior leagues.
"I wish all our players wore a visor," Wilson said, before joking, "but now I have to question his toughness, right?"
Brent said the league may be able to grandfather them in but that current NHL veterans wouldn't accept a mandatory visor rule.
"I don't think the players would like that or maybe even allow that," Brent said. "It might be a grandfather rule type of thing. I think it's still up to the individual guy ... But I'll be wearing one from now on. Close enough for me."
- The Leafs are facing the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, with James Reimer getting the start against veteran Dwayne Roloson, who always seems to play well in Toronto.
- Freddy Sjostrom is a game-time decision as to whether he'll join the lineup or not. He's been battling a recurring upper-body injury that is believed to be his shoulder. Jay Rosehill may play in his place.
- The Leafs placed defenceman Matt Lashoff on re-entry waivers today as is required to call him up from the Toronto Marlies. It's likely that he'll clear and join the team for tomorrow's practice and the subsequent road trip to Carolina and Florida this week. Toronto has been working with only six defencemen for a while and Lashoff will give them some depth and a player who can play the power play. (He has 28 points in 69 games in the AHL this season.)
- Wilson noted this game is a big one for his team, given they will be on the road and playing back to back quite a bit: "If we have trouble getting up for a game where we're in no different position than we were the other night then we're in trouble. This is a game we have to win."
- The Lightning are really beat up right now, missing both Steve Downie and Ryan Malone due to injury and Pavel Kubina due to suspension. Secondary scoring has been a big, big issue for them recently, something coach Guy Boucher spoke about at length after the morning skate.