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Mike Mottau reflects upon being ‘lucky’ enough to survive eye injury

Oct 1, 2011, 1:00 AM EDT

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Mike Mottau AP

Hockey players can be lucky in plenty of instances. A player can put together a hot streak – particularly during the playoffs – in which an unusual amount of his shots go in. Goalies might not like it, but sometimes they really do get lucky when a puck hits their posts.

It’s hard to believe a player would call himself lucky after a puck hit him in the eye, though.

That’s the perspective that New York Islanders defenseman Mike Mottau shared on Friday, however. Mottau took a wayward Zach Bogosian shot to his right eye during a scary incident on Nov. 21, 2010, forcing him to spend multiple nights in an Atlanta hospital and end his season in the process.

The important thing to Mottau is that it could have been worse – both for his eye and for his hockey career. He’ll be able to continue playing at the NHL level because of how the puck landed, which he explained to Tom Gulitti.

“I was awful lucky and fortunate that it hit the way it hit,” said Mottau, who is at Prudential Center tonight with the Islanders to face his former team in a preseason game. “It was rolling and it hit me this way (as if it was standing on edge), so it was above and below. (Otherwise) the rounded edge would have hit my eye instead of being flat and would have squished it.”

There was permanent damage to the eye and he was cut above and below it, but he suffered no broken bones and his vision is “intact.”

“The eye is permanently dilated, but it’s still good enough to play,” the 33-year-old defenseman explained. “The vision is intact, but the light affects it. So, it’s something I’ve had to get used to.”

Because his pupil is dilated, his eye is more sensitive to light. He said it doesn’t not bother him on the ice, though.

When it comes to this injury, it’s all relative. Mottau’s former teammate Colin White also fought through a serious eye injury (which occurred in 2007). Mottau explained that while they went through some of the same things, White’s situation was “much worse.”

Mottau admitted that he could have avoided that injury if he wore a visor, which he plans on wearing voluntarily going forward. He explained why he didn’t wear one in the NHL after donning a full cage during his NCAA career.

“It was just one of those things where you have the freedom to do it,” he said. “You’re wearing a full cage and you get to take it off. At the time, there weren’t a ton of visors in the league and I don’t know if it’s an ego thing. It’s not like I was a heavyweight by any means. I just kind of gave me that freedom of not having it, being a professional.”

It’s difficult to scold NHL players for refusing to wear visors, even if it’s somewhat infuriating that they take an “It won’t happen to me” stance after seeing gruesome injuries to the likes of Steve Yzerman. One imagines it is only a matter of time before they become mandatory, but in the mean time, let’s hope that more players learn their lesson before they take a puck to the eye.

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