November 23, 2015
Defenceman John Stevens hockey career came to an end because of a scary eye injury.
Stevens, 32, born in Campbellton, New Brunswick but raised in Turkey Point, Ontario, was playing with the Philadelphia Phantoms in the AHL when he took a slapshot in the right eye during a Dec. 13, 1998 game.
He had surgery a week later on broken bones around the eye, and later underwent surgery to repair a detached retina. A partial loss of vision in the eye prompted him to make the retirement decision.
"The doctors have said it'll be at least four months before he'll be perfectly healthy again, except for the vision loss," said Bob Clarke, general manager of the NHL-parent Philadelphia Flyers. "He won't be able to play anymore."
Stevens spent most of his pro career in the AHL after graduating from the OHL's Oshawa Generals in 1986. He was captain of the Phantoms, who were Calder Cup champions in 1998. It was his third Calder Cup championship as a player.
Stevens spent 9 years in the Flyers organization, but only played in 9 games for the Flyers. In 1990 he left for the Hartford Whalers organization where he played for 6 seasons, including 44 games with the Whalers. In total Stevens played 53 NHL games and picked up 10 assists.
Stevens was a classic but smallish stay at home blueliner with a bit of a mean streak in him.
"He was really the first leader with the Phantoms, a very emotional player, a very emotional guy," said Chris Therien, the former Flyers defenceman. "His record as a player and as a coach at that level shows he can build a winning foundation. He demands a lot from the players, but he has lots of honesty and integrity.È
Stevens turned to coaching once his eye healed, becoming a top minor league coach (winning another Calder Cup in 2005). He would coach the Philadelphia Flyers for four seasons (2006-2010), replacing Ken Hitchcock, before becoming Darryl Sutter's assistant while winning two Stanley Cups with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014.
"The Flyers gave me an opportunity to stay on as an assistant coach after I had an en eye injury," Stevens once said in an interview with a New York radio station. "The opportunity was something I thought about from my late 20s on. I was never the most skilled guy, but I had to pay attention to details as a player and I think that helped me more than anything else I did."