|Philadelphia Flyers' Ian Laperriere was hit by a puck blocking a shot against the New Jersey Devils during the third period of an NHL first-round playoff hockey game Thursday, April 22, 2010 in Newark, N.J. The Flyers beat the Devils 3-0 to win the series 4-1. (AP Photo)
- Laperriere speaks
(Philadelphia, PA) – In his short time with the organization, it's already become painfully apparent that almost nothing will keep Flyers forward Ian Laperriere
off of the ice.
On Tuesday, the man voted by The Hockey News
as the toughest player in the NHL, finally met his match. A brain contusion, as well as a mild concussion, has likely ended Laperriere's season announced general manager Paul Holmgren via conference call.
Laperriere suffered the injury when he was struck by a slap shot above his right eye from the Devils' Paul Martin in the third period of the Flyers’ 3-0 victory over New Jersey in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series last Thursday ( watch the play
Holmgren explained that Laperriere saw Dr. Joseph Maroon, the chief neurosurgeon at the University of Pittsburgh, earlier on Tuesday after visiting with Flyers team physicians on Monday. All of the doctors have noticed what is essentially a bruise on Laperriere's brain.
“I think this is significant. They saw a spot there [on his brain] initially, and I think they were hoping, like we all were, that it would dissipate a little bit,” said Holmgren. “Right now, it’s not safe for him to play.”
As much as he would like to compete for the club as it gets set for the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Laperriere, who says that he feels fine except for some mild blurred vision, knows that he can't afford to take that chance for a number of reasons.
“They don’t want any bleeding in [my brain]. If you start bleeding in your brain it’s not good," he said. "We’re hockey players and take pride in playing through injuries, but that’s one thing I just can’t afford to do for the sake of my family. Trust me, I want to be out there. I’m mad about that."
Don't expect Laperriere to change his style of play once he returns to the ice. Blocking 100 mile-per-hour slap shots is, well, his forte.
“I’m not mad about the play. That’s the play I make a living with, and I’m going to do that play again," he said. "I did it 10,000 times in my career and I’m going to do it again. It’s a matter of bad timing, I guess. Right now, I’m going to be a cheerleader, and if my teammates need anything I’m going to do it for them. I’ll be right there cheering them on to the Stanley Cup Finals.”
Laperriere will not require surgery, and will have another CT scan in approximately four weeks, according to Holmgren. Even if he has healed by then, however, it is unlikely he will be able to return to the lineup should Philadelphia still be competing for the Stanley Cup at that time. The biggest thing Laperriere needs right now is rest, so he is not allowed to exercise or work out.
“To be honest, you never know, but I think it’s going to take a little miracle," he said, when asked if there was any chance at all that he could return to the lineup. "It’s something, personally, I won’t mess with and I know the team won’t [either]. Hockey is my passion, but my kids are my life, and I have to think about that.
“I have a family to think about. I can’t be selfish about that one. The ending of that injury, if it goes wrong, there’s no worse and you’re dying on the ice. That’s one thing I don’t want to put my family through and I’m not willing to take that chance. [Flyers trainer] Jim [McCrossin] and the organization won’t take that chance, either.”
Replacing Laperriere, a key member of the penalty-kill and one of the veteran leaders on the team, will not be easy. The club has been trying out various players in practice the past few days, several of whom spent the entire 2009-10 season with the AHL’s Adirondack Phantoms. Picking up his minutes on the penalty-kill could also fall onto the shoulders of players like Darroll Powe and Scott Hartnell
The Flyers are still awaiting dates and an opponent for the next round.
“It’s hard to replace Ian and what he does, particularly on the penalty-kill. He’s a heart-and-soul guy on our team, and it’s hard to replace that,” said Holmgren.
The 6’1’’, 200-pound right wing has one assist and four penalty minutes in five playoff games. He played in all 82 games in the regular season, posting three goals and 17 assists for 20 points and 162 penalty minutes (second on the team).
Laperriere was the recipient of the Yanick Dupre Class Guy Memorial award this season as voted upon by the team’s media, as well as the Gene Hart Memorial Award for the player who shows the most “heart.”