April 04, 2014
If it wasn't for bad luck, Mattias Weinhandl may have had no luck at all.
As a junior he was Henrik and Daniel Sedin's right winger. Like all of the twins' linemates over the years, Mattias Weinhandl benefited nicely from the creative wizardry of the twins. He put up good numbers and was drafted by the New York Islanders in 1999.
Weinhandl's promising career almost came to an end just a few months later while playing in the Four Nations tournament. Michal Travnicek, a Toronto draft pick from Czech Republic, speared Weinhandl in the face, severely damaging his left eye. Travnicek was suspended from IIHF/IOC play for three years for the deliberate attack. Weinhandl, who was wearing a visor, was left with only 10% vision in the eye.
"The first 24 hours or so were very scary," Weinhandl said. "By the second day, I was told I'd see a little bit and that was very good news."
Despite the career-threatening blow, Mattias Weinhandl refused to think his hockey days were over.
"I had it in my head the whole time that this wasn't going to stop me from playing hockey. I was going to come back and be even better. That was all I wanted to do and nothing was going to stop me."
Weinhandl returned to Modo on January 15th, 2000, after three months of rehab. He wore a full face shield initially.
"It was a hard time," he said. "But when you have hard times, you grow as a person. To see it right now, it was a positive for me. I like to see the positives in all experiences."
Weinhandl remained with Modo through to the 2002-03 season when he signed with the Islanders. He would spend most of the next three NHL seasons with the Islanders, but playing sparingly. As a rookie he made a good impression on coach Peter Laviolette, who even gave Weinhandl an audition on the top line with Alexei Yashin.
"He's a smart and slippery player that knows how to create offense and he's also pretty good defensively."
Unfortunately for Weinhandl, Laviolette was replaced after that season and Weinhandl never did get much ice time with the Islanders.
Near the end of the 2005-06 season the Islanders lost Weinhandl on waivers to the Minnesota Wild. But Weinhandl never really got untracked there either. He was a regular healthy scratch before being demoted to the minor leagues in 2006-07.
Weinhandl left North American hockey at the end of the 2006-07 season. First he returned to Sweden before moving to Russia to play in the KHL. He played well enough overseas to be named to Sweden's 2010 Olympic hockey team.
Weinhandl suffered a serious concussion upon returning to Sweden in 2012-13, all but officially ending his career.
All told Mattias Weinhandl played 182 career NHL games for the Islanders and the Wild, scoring 19 goals and 37 assists for 56 points.