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WhaleRock’s Berard Reflects on Brutal NHL Eye Injury 16 Years Later

Saturday, March 12, 2016


Bryan Berard

Former NHL player and Rhode Island native Bryan Berard was featured in a recent article on ESPN reflecting on a March 11, 2000 eye injury that altered his life and hockey career forever.

Berard currently works at Providence-based WhaleRock Point Partners as a financial consultant. 

"Every day I think about it. I wake up and I only have one eye. It's every day. I don't know if it's a lot of 'what ifs?' It was a freak accident. It's part of the sport. At that time, a lot of players didn't wear shields," Berard told ESPN.

The Injury

Berard played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and and the Leafs were in Ottawa to battle their rival the Senators.

The Leafs and Senators were in a four on four situation with Ottawa forechecking in the offensive zone. Ottawa prospect, now NHL superstar, Marian Hossa, attempted to one time a loose puck but missed. The follow through of of his miss continued out of control and the blade of the stick struck Berard in the eye.

Click here to see the injury.

Berard was helped to the locker room by doctors, taunters and Maple Leafs' healthy scratches where they found the stick had ruptured Berard's eyeball.

Senators doctors made the determination that Berard needed to go to the hospital immediately.

After a 3 1/2 hour surgery Berard was able to see again to the amazement of the doctors.

"All the doctors involved, their jaws just about hit the floor because he was able to give this information from the eye that was damaged so badly. That was a eureka moment for all the surgeons. I was in the room and it was like, 'Wow. He can see light.' It was great," said Maple Leafs trainer Brent Smith to ESPN.

The Comeback

Berard missed only one season due to the injury and came back in 2001-02 season signing with the New York Rangers as a free agent. Berard played in all 82 games for New York, scoring 2 goals and recording 21 assists.

Berard would go on to play another 6 seasons with the Bruins, Blackhawks and Blue Jackets before finishing with the Islanders in 2007-08.

"I would've liked to have seen where my career could have gone being healthy with two eyes. I had two back surgeries that I think even made my career shorter. I felt like I was starting to really get my game back with Chicago and then Columbus and putting up some big points again and then I had my back injury, so my career was cut short with that as well," Berard said.

Bryan Berard

Berard with the Columbus Blue Jackets

Berard is an alumni of Mount Saint Charles Academy and was drafted number one overall in 1995 by the Ottawa Senators. Berard never signed with Ottawa and was traded to the Islanders where he won the Calder Trophy in 1996-97.

Berard was traded to Toronto in January of 1999.

In 2004, Berard won the Bill Masterton Trophy, which is awarded to the player that best shows sportsmanship and dedication to the game of hockey.

NHL Rules Change

The NHL has recently changed the rules, forcing all players entering the league to wear a half shield. Veterans are grandfathered in and have an option to wear one or not.

On the impact of the rules change, Berard says "I grew up on the ponds. We didn't wear helmets. We didn't wear any equipment and you learn to keep your stick down. Now, these kids are protected at a young age and they come up through juniors and they're wearing half shields all the time, so I think guys just get a little more careless. If I was coming into the league now, I would be wearing a shield."


Related Slideshow: The Greatest Rhode Island Olympic Hockey Players

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Bryan Berard

Olympic Team: 1998

Born in Woonsocket, Berard was a member of the U.S. men’s hockey team in 1998. A graduate of Mount St. Charles Academy, Gerard played 11 seasons in the NHL for six NHL teams including the Boston Bruins. He was the first overall pick in the NHL draft in 1995. His career accolades include winning the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy in 2004 for his exemplary sportsmanship.

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David Emma

Olympic Team: 1992

A graduate of Bishop Hendricken High School, Emma played for the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team at the 1992 Winter Olympics. He also represented the U.S. at the World Championships in 1991 and 1999. Emma went on to play five seasons in the NHL for the New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, and Boston Bruins.

Emma, a native of Cranston, is currently the Managing Director, Partner at Masterson, Emma and Associates at HighTower.

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Chris Terreri

Olympic Team: 1988

Born in Warwick, Terreri was the goaltender for the U.S. Hockey Team at the 1988 Winter Olympics. He also played for the U.S. at the Worlds Championships from 1985-1987 and again in 1997.

Terreri also served as goaltender for Providence College from 1982-1986 – winning the 1985 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship MVP. He would go on to play 14 years in the NHL and win two Stanley Cups.

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Lisa Brown-Miller

Olympic Team: 1998

This Providence College graduate won a gold medal at the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano. She is one of just three players to have played on six U.S. National teams. While at PC, Brown-Miller earned All-Eastern College Athletic Conference honors as a sophomore, junior, and senior. In addition to hockey, she also played softball at PC.

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Robert Gaudreau, Sr.

Olympic Team: 1968

One of the greatest Brown University hockey players of all-time, Gaudreau was a member of the 1968 U.S. Olympic hockey team. He was first team All-Ivy three years in a row and a two-time All-American. Gaudreau ended his Brown career as the school’s most productive defensemen with 35 goals and 55 assists. He is a member of the Brown University Hall of Fame.

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Sara DeCosta

Olympic Team: 1998, 2002

Born in Warwick, DeCosta won a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics and a silver at the 2002 Winter Games. A graduate of Toll Gate High School and Providence College, DeCosta posted impressive statistics in the ’98 Olympics recording a 1.59 goals against average and a .875 save percentage as goaltender.

Decosta was named the USA Hockey Women’s Player of the Year in 2000 and 2002. In 2002, she was named a Sports Ethics Fellow by the Institute for International Sport. DeCosta currently lives in Warwick with her husband and three children.

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Katie King-Crowley

Olympic Teams: 1998, 2002, 2006

King, a Brown University graduate played for three U.S. women’s hockey teams – including the gold medal winning team at Nagano. Aside from her gold, King also has a silver medal from the Salt Lake City Games and a bronze from Turin.

In addition to playing hockey at Brown, King also played softball, and was even named the Ivy League Softball Player of the Year in 1996. She is currently the head coach of the women’s hockey team at Boston College.

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Tom Mellor

Olympic Team: 1972

Mellor, a Cranston native, won a silver medal as a member of Team USA at the 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo. He also represented the U.S. at the Ice Hockey World Championship tournaments in 1971, 1972, and 1973.

A graduate of Boston College, Mellow was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 1970 and played 26 games in the NHL.

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Keith Carney

Olympic Team: 1998

Born in Providence, this 17-year NHL veteran was a defenseman for the 1998 Men’s Olympic team that competed in Nagano.  One of just 29 players to appear in 1,000 NHL games, Carney retired in 2008 as a member of the Minnesota Wild.

As a college athlete, Carney was named to the NCAA East First All-Star Team for the 1990-1991 season and the NCAA East Second All-American Team for the 1989-1990 season.

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Brian Burke

Olympic Team: 2010

Born in Providence, Burke was the general manager for the U.S. men’s hockey team for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Burke is currently the President of Hockey Operations and General Manager for the Calgary Flames.

A former Friar, Burke was captain of the Providence College hockey team in his senior year.

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Karen Thatcher

Olympic Team: 2010

This Providence College graduate won a silver medal as a member of the U.S. women’s hockey team at the 2010 Winter Olympics. In addition to winning a silver medal, Thatcher won a gold at the Women’s 4 Nations Cup in 2011.

Prior to transferring to PC, Thatcher played her freshman year at Brown University. Her many career accolades include being named to the Providence Hockey East All-Decade Team and winning the John Carlton Award in 2002.

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Paul Guay

Olympic Team: 1984

Born in Woonsocket, Guay represented the United States in the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo – scoring one goal for Team USA. Guay, who graduated from Mount Saint Charles High School, played eight NHL seasons for several teams, including the Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins, and New York Islanders.

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Clark Donatelli

Olympic Team: 1988, 1992

Born in Providence, Donatelli played center for Team USA at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary and the 1992 Games in Albertville. A graduate of Boston College, Donatelli would go on to play for both the Providence and Boston Bruins. He is currently the head coach of the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers.

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Gerald Kilmartin

Olympic Team: 1952

Born in Providence, Kilmartin won a silver medal at the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo. A graduate of Bryant University, he also played for the United States at the 1947 and 1949 World Championships.

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Cammi Granato

Olympic Team: 1998, 2002

Considered one of the greatest female hockey players of all time, Granato helped lead Team USA to a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. Granato, who attended Providence College, also won a silver medal at the 2002 Olympics.

She is a member of the International Hockey Hall of Fame, the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, and the NHL Hall of Fame.


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