Boston, MA -- Right now, Petteri Nokelainen is pretty thankful for one very basic thing: his sight.
Nokelainen hit the ice for the second day in a row after spending the last two weeks hoping that the February 10 game against the San Jose Sharks hadn’t been his last. After this morning’s pre-game skate, he spoke to the media for the first time since a high stick from San Jose’s Dan Boyle caught him in the corner of his right eye.
“That was definitely the scariest thing in my life,” he said. “You can’t see anything with your right eye, and the only thing that you can see with your left eye is blood in your hand, so, of course, you think the worse at first.”
There were a couple of stitches and a little bit of swelling, but Nokelainen mostly spent the following week on his couch, watching “a lot of movies…a couple good classics, and pretty much old movies from the TV” and waiting for the bleeding in his eye to go away.
“I didn’t see anything after 24 hours,” he said. “I had to stay on my couch; I couldn’t even go on walks. They just wanted to be really careful that I didn’t [re-injure the eye].”
Meanwhile, his teammates were on the road, which made the whole ordeal “really, really boring all of the time,” said Nokelainen.
However, they all kept in contact with text messages of encouragement.
“That’s when you realize you have great teammates,” said Nokelainen. “It was a really, really big thing….It’s a really good feeling when you get those text messages….You know those are great friends.”
Head coach Claude Julien, for one, wasn’t the least bit surprised at that.
“Our guys are pretty close and very supportive of each other,” he said. “There’s no doubt he would have enjoyed being on the road trip…but I guess the guys are pretty good…with the texting and those cell phones.”
Now that he’s back on the ice with the team, Nokelainen is under strict order for no contact practices, but he can participate in line drills. He said he feels “pretty awful, conditioning-wise,” and the numerous eye drops he’s been using make his vision a little blurry.
“I see the puck well and stuff like that, but it’s not 100% yet,” he explained. “I have to see doctors again this Friday, and they know better than I do, so we just go day-by-day.”
Still, he’s just happy that nothing worse happened.
“The first thing, you don’t think about the hockey right away, it’s something that you have to deal with your everyday life,” he said. “It’s your vision, and you can’t get new eyes, so…I couldn’t be happier about being back and skating.”
And whenever he does get back on the ice for a game, a visor will be a new addition to his uniform – no question about it.
“Even if they didn’t tell me to wear one, I would definitely,” Nokelainen said. “I guess you have to be a little bit dumb at first. You think that you’re not going to get a stick in your eye yourself.”