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Canes’ Calvin de Haan: ‘I was pretty much blind for 48 hours’

Canes’ de Haan returns to practice

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour discusses defenseman Calvin de Haan's return to practice after a serious eye injury and how the playing time benefitted defenseman Haydn Fleury, who replaced de Haan.
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Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour discusses defenseman Calvin de Haan's return to practice after a serious eye injury and how the playing time benefitted defenseman Haydn Fleury, who replaced de Haan.

Calvin de Haan couldn’t rest easy until he heard it from a doctor in Denver, until he was told, “You did not lose your eye.”

As an NHL defenseman, de Haan has had his share of injuries, mild and major. A bad shoulder last season kept him out much of the year. The Carolina Hurricanes defenseman has taken shots off legs and feet, being banged into the boards, even injured in a postgame workout.

But never an eye injury. Not until this season.

“I’ve had a couple of stitches here or there but it was never the money-maker,” de Haan said Monday.

Against the Toronto Maple Leafs in December, de Haan took a stick under his visor from the Leafs’ William Nylander, leaving a gash on the left eyebrow that required six stitches. A close call.

But in the March 11 road game against the Colorado Avalanche, the Avs’ Alex Kerfoot took a swipe with his stick and hit de Haan in the right eye on the follow-through.

De Haan immediately lost sight in the eye. At first, he wasn’t sure if his eye was in its socket.

“I was pretty much blind for 48 hours,” he said.

De Haan was treated off the ice at the arena but then taken to a Denver hospital, where he was evaluated by a specialist.

“It was down at the hospital and he said, ‘You should be all right,’” de Haan said. “That was the most optimistic thing he pretty much said the whole time. He said, ‘You’ve just got to lay low for a few days and let everything heal and go from there.’“

While the eyesight returned, there was hyphema, or pooling of blood inside the eye, de Haan said. A blurriness has persisted, which de Haan likened to being punched in the nose and having your eyes water.

De Haan was able to rejoin the team practice Monday at PNC Arena ahead of Tuesday’s home game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, wearing a full-face shield, but it’s still uncertain when he’ll be able to play. His right eye was dilated after practice from the eye drops he has been using.

“They’re trying to keep the eye from moving, to let it heal,” he said. “That’s why I’m using industrial-strength dilating drops. It’s still a little blurry and probably not safe to be going full speed in a hockey game right now.

“It’s just bad luck more than anything. I’ve never been hit from my nose up. It is what it is.”

Eye injuries are scary things for any athlete. Former Canes coach Paul Maurice and former assistant general manager Jason Karmanos both had their hockey playing careers ended by eye injuries.

“I’ve always been surprised there aren’t more eye injuries with the rate of speed of the puck and the battles with the sticks,” Maurice said.

Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour can put himself in de Haan’s place. Once, during a Canes game years ago against the San Jose Sharks, he took a stick in the eye.

“It was a real bad one, real scary,” Brind’Amour said. “I thought I lost my eye, so I can relate to what he went through. ... I didn’t know at the time how serious it was until after, when I got rushed to the hospital. Then you start worrying. Obviously the vision part, that’s permanent.

“It puts a lot of things in perspective, that’s for sure. I’m just glad he’s going to be fine.”

De Haan is eager to get back in the lineup with a team that he joined last July as a free agent, a team making a push for its first Stanley Cup playoff berth since 2009. De Haan was in playoff games with the New York Islanders in 2015 and 2016. He wants to get back with this Canes team, this year.

“There’s a real possibility that we can get some home ice,” he said. “You never know, right? One team slides and we keep climbing and anything can happen. It would be kind of a shock to the league, I think, but we’ve got a good team here. I’ve said it from day one that everyone has bought in and everyone believes in each other.”

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In more than 30 years at The N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the N.C. State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina beats, and now is in his 11th season on the Carolina Hurricanes beat. Alexander, who has won numerous writing awards at the state and national level, covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was a part of The N&O’s coverage of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run.


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