Bruins’ Jakub Lauko details close call with skate blade; talks neck-guard safety

Bruins

“I’m just grateful that I can be here after two weeks.”

Boston Bruins center Jakub Lauko during an NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023.
Jakub Lauko hopes to be back with the Bruins in the coming weeks. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

“Grateful” and “lucky” were the two most common words echoed by Jakub Lauko during his media scrum on Wednesday at Warrior Ice Arena.

Just over two weeks after a skate blade came within “millimeters” — as Lauko put it — of blinding him in his left eye, the Bruins winger was back on the ice at the team practice facility in Brighton.

A few fading stitches and the whites of his eye tinged red are the lone visible reminders of just how close the 23-year-old forward came to disaster on Oct. 24 in Chicago.

His eye now reopened after being swollen shut for a week, Lauko is charting a path back to game action.

But in the wake of his close call — and the tragic passing of former NHLer Adam Johnson after his neck was cut by a skate just days after Lauko’s own incident — Lauko is counting his blessings as he looks to get his hockey career back on track.

“I’m just grateful that I can be here now,” Lauko said. “It was a close call, it was very close to the eye. It just changed your view of hockey and everything, because what happened [a few] days after with Adam in England — it’s horrible and it’s kind of a reminder of how fast and how dangerous this sport is. I’m just grateful that I can be here after two weeks.”

Lauko has been ruled out for Thursday’s home contest against the Islanders, but is finally starting to ramp up his on-ice activity. He donned a red, non-contact jersey on Wednesday, along with a cage over his face. 

Several facial fractures sustained around his eye when Chicago’s Jason Dickinson inadvertently caught him in the face with his skate means that Lauko might have to wear the cage once he’s officially cleared to return to the lineup — at least for a few weeks.

It’s a welcome alternative to a career potentially cut short.

Lauko suffered the injury in the third period of Boston’s 3-0 win over the Blackhawks, with Dickinson’s skate slicing into Lauko while the young forward was trying to get back up from the ice following a battle along the boards. Lauko remembered that his vision went “pitch black” — his fears stoked that he had lost the eye.

He quickly made his way to the Bruins’ bench and down the tunnel with a towel placed over his face to stop the blood that was spraying out of the wound. 

“The blood was soaking through my arm,” Lauko recalled. “My jersey basically was yellow and red. It was a lot of blood. I don’t think I ever bled that much. It was really pouring all over me.”

The Bruins’ training staff quickly identified that Dickinson’s skate came close to — but did not injure — Lauko’s eye. Still, amid those panicked few minutes where he felt as though his lifelong passion was nearly taken from him, Lauko remembered the emotions pouring out. 

“My first reaction was like, ‘I lost the eye’. So I kind of went into panic mode. I was shaking. … Even in the locker room, like the trainers told me ‘Yeah, it missed the eye.’ But obviously it was a shock and it was hard to get through a lot of emotion. Because it’s one of your senses and the most important one So yeah, it was hard. 

“It was hard, like after they sewed it together, I’m gonna be honest. I started crying in the trainers’ room, just because there was a lot of emotion around. I’m very, very grateful that I can be here.”

When Lauko does return to the ice with the Bruins, he plans on sporting a neck guard for the remainder of his hockey career.

In the aftermath of Johnson’s passing, Lauko plans on doing whatever he can to protect himself from the worst-case scenarios that can play out on the frozen sheet.

“After this experience with the eye and after what happened in England — I’m just like, ‘Yeah, it’s too much of a risk. … I’m gonna start wearing a neck guard, wrist guards too. So I’m just trying to add some layer of protection on those places that are vulnerable. And it’s always better to be ready than sorry.

Lauko added: “It’s one layer of protection that can maybe save a life with what happened in England. It’s horrible — no one wants to see that happening. And if there’s a chance to prevent that, yeah, I’m going to use. … I think more and more guys will jump on it and hopefully we can prevent that situation from happening, what happened in England.”


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