There aren't too many people who use words like "lucky" or "blessed" after taking a skate blade to the face and receiving 90 stitches around the eye, but Johnny Boychuk knows first-hand how much worse his situation could have been.
He could have lost his eye, or at least severely damaged his vision when he got caught by Artturi Lehkonen's skate, but somehow managed to escape both. It's left him with pair of scars on his eyelid and cheek, and a trip to the plastic surgeon, but also a sense of appreciation.
"I was very blessed and lucky that I didn't cut my eyeball," Boychuk said. "It was very close, but thankfully it didn't. That's definitely scary to watch it again."
Boychuk addressed the media on Wednesday for the first time since the incident, as the Islanders defenseman gave a vivid depiction of last Tuesday's events. He recounted initially not being able to see, and the panic that set in when he started to see blood, causing him to sprint off the ice.
Video: Practice Update 3/11: Johnny Boychuk
"When I was on the ice, I looked down and couldn't really see out of that eye, maybe it was the pressure right on the eye, but then when I saw blood, I was in one," Boychuk said. "I knew it so I had to get off and I'm just lucky. Very extremely lucky."
The scar above his eye was shielded by the brim of his hat, but will forever be a reminder of how close things came. Boychuk said even he was taken aback at the number of stitches it was going to take to close the gash.
"[The surgeon] tells me how many stitches I got in my eyelid and I'm thinking to myself, oh, that's not just 10, that's quite a bit, but he did a really good job," Boychuk said.
"I feel blessed," he added. "Things could have gone way worse… It's scary, but it's part of the game. It's a freak accident. It's going to happen again to somebody. You don't want to see it. Just pray for them."
Boychuk is speaking from experience. The 36-year-old suffered two skate cut - one to the neck and another to the face - in 370 days, dating back to Feb. 28, 2019 when Mitch Marner's skate clipped him on the neck. Boychuk said the neck situation was scarier for him, even if it didn't require stitches to fix.
"That one was personally scarier for me than the one on the face," he said. "You get one on the neck it could be life or death, or you get it on the side of the face, chances are you're not going to die from it, but you still are very scared because you'd never want to lose an eye as well."
Boychuk is a popular guy in NHL circles and was overwhelmed by the support he received from players, fans and even society at large.
"I got hundreds of texts from people," Boychuk said. "There was thousands on social media, it's nice to see that support throughout the NHL community. Even if you weren't an NHL fan there were people sending me good wishes and it means a lot."
After skating after the team on Monday and Tuesday, Boychuk joined the Islanders for about half of Wednesday's practice, marking his first skate with the team since suffering the injury. He still has swelling around the eye and estimates that he has about 60% vision. Head Coach Barry Trotz said it'll be Boychuk's decision when he wants to get back in the lineup, which won't happen until the swelling subsides.
His teammates are happy to have Boychuk along on the road trip, which is currently in his home province of Alberta, and to see him in good spirits on and off the ice. Boychuk said he's just as happy to be back on the ice.
"It felt good just to be out there with the guys skating out there and being a part of the group," Boychuk said.