On Saturday, Ian Laperriere sat in a club box at the Wells Fargo Center doing something he hasn't been able to do much in his 16-year NHL career - take in a game with his wife and two kids.
Being alongside his family as he watched his teammates skate without him barely lessened the pain that Laperriere has dealt with this season. He continues to sit out indefinitely, suffering from postconcussion symptoms sustained in last year's playoff run.
"It's the worst time in my career by far," Laperriere said last night at the Wells Fargo Center, where the Flyers lost to Florida. "It's been hard. I skated with my kids [Sunday] morning and I still just don't feel right. When I work out [off the ice] I am fine. I feel all right. But when I am on the ice, and I see the lights, that's when I don't feel right. I really do believe this is coming from my eye."
Laperriere, 36, said he still has full vision in his right eye - though it is slightly blurry in one corner - after being struck in the face by a Paul Martin slap shot in Game 5 of the Flyers' first-round series with the Devils last April.
For now, Laperriere remains in a holding pattern. He is listed as "out indefinitely," with no imminent return planned. But he continues to spend time in a hyperbaric chamber and take advanced vitamins to stimulate healing in the brain.
Laperriere has stopped seeing concussion specialists and neurologists, for the time being.
"I don't see the point in seeing anyone else," Laperriere said. "If you see too many doctors, you get too many messages in your head and you get messed up. Everyone says something different. I know my body and I know what it feels like to feel 100 percent. Until then, I'm not doing anything."
Sitting out has been difficult for him - and his family, though they undoubtedly enjoy him more at home. In his NHL career, Laperriere never has missed more than 20 games in a season. The Flyers already have played 35 games.
"I've tried to be as positive as I can be with my family. It's tough for me to watch, I've never done that before in my life," Laperriere said. "They see me watching quite a bit. It drives me nuts. But I can't be bitter around my family, I'm just trying to be the best dad I can be right now with what's going on in my life. I don't want to put that on my kids."
Laperriere said that he has a "great feeling" about this season for the Flyers. In the meantime, he has been trying to stay busy, visiting the Flyers' minor league affiliates and draft picks in junior hockey to push them to develop.
Despite premature talk of retirement, Laperriere admits that it has crossed his mind. But even if he were to retire, his contract still would remain on the Flyers' salary cap next season as he was over 35 when he signed the 3-year deal in July 2009.
That gives him time to rest, recuperate and let his body respond. He will continue working out, in hopes his body will respond and allow him to keep playing. That would be some kind of Christmas present.
Until then, a hole will remain on the Flyers' penalty kill and in the locker room.