NHL Report Eye to eye with Carl Soderberg
montreal» n hindsight, choosing to undergo eye surgery Nov. 15 and still travel with the Avalanche on this four-game trip was somewhat injudicious. My work hasn’t suffered, but my comfort level in doing what I love changed. With one good eye, it was difficult to navigate through familiar airports, hotels and arenas — and particularly hard to hail my Uber driver while simultaneously looking at my cellphone for his or her licence plate.
Last week I was seeing 20/150 out of the new donor-issued cornea, which is held in place by 16 stitches. As I told Avs center Carl Soderberg in Nashville, I just feel “off.” He understood.
My right eye will heal and the vision could drastically improve. If not, I’ll eventually be able to wear a contact lens to probably see 20/20. But Soderberg will never see anything sharp and refined out of his left eye. A lifted stick and detached retina when he was a 21year-old hockey player in Sweden changed his life forever. But it didn’t end his hockey career.
I’m on the disabled list indefinitely with my beer-league group. There’s no way I could play hockey right now. So how does Soderberg play center in the NHL?
“It’s definitely interesting how someone can play with one eye,” Avs center John Mitchell said. “Over time, you can evolve, I suppose, and get that one eye very strong and be able to see a lot more. But it certainly benefits to have two, for sure. Credit Carl for being able to do that.”
Credit Soderberg for relearning how to play hockey and becoming the player he was projected with complete vision.
Soderberg, 31, was a 2004 secondround draft pick by the St. Louis Blues, but he didn’t play in the NHL until 2013 at age 28 with the Boston Bruins. Last season, his first with Colorado, he amassed a career-high 51 points and was named the Colorado chapter nominee of the Professional Hockey Writers Association’s Bill Masterton Trophy, which goes to the NHL player who stands for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Soderberg wasn’t so dedicated to hockey in 2006 after an opposing player in the Swedish Elite League tried to lift his stick but instead dug the toe of his stick into Soderberg’s left eye. And, yes, he was wearing a visor; the stick became lodged between his face and the visor.
“At first you don’t think about hockey. You just want to get healthy,” Soderberg told me in Nashville. “I was pretty beat up for three, four months. Lot of surgeries and I was at the hospital for three months. The first thing you want to do is get rid of the pain and get healthy. But suddenly I accepted the injury — that’s the first part, accepting the loss of vision — and as soon as I accepted it I started to think, ‘Maybe I can come back.’ ”
Soderberg didn’t play hockey for a year. How bad is the vision in his left eye now? “If I had no vision in my other eye I could walk, I guess, if there’s lights,” he said. “It’s blurry. I couldn’t see anything without lights.”
A centerman has more responsibility than a winger but Soderberg feels more confident in the middle. Wingers have to take passes off the wall, and sometimes opposing defensemen will skate down from the blue line and crush the winger.
“When I played wing it was very hard for me,” he said. “When I played left wing and posted up (on a breakout) I never see the D coming. It feels more comfortable to be in the middle of the ice.”
Soderberg will remain in the middle, where his teammates and coaches know he belongs.
“He’s obviously a very intelligent player, because it would take an intelligent player to do what he’s doing with one eye,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. Mike Chambers: mchambers @denverpost.com or @mikechambers