Ben Newman has overcome some physical issues during this high school hockey season. Early in the year, for example, the junior center from Little Falls had to deal with a shoulder injury that got in the way of his tough, physical style of play.
And during Wednesday’s Class 1A state quarterfinal game against St. Thomas Academy at the Xcel Energy Center, Newman was forced to leave the ice for a time after a high stick sliced into the skin above his left eye.
That episode could have been much worse, considering that Newman’s left eye is his only working eye. That’s right, Ben Newman plays hockey – and plays it very, very well – despite having vision in just one eye.
Is it a miracle? Not if Ben has anything to say about it. He lost the vision in his right eye when he was only eight months old, so as he put it after the Flyers lost to St. Thomas Academy, “I don’t know what it’s like to have two eyes.”
It is remarkable that he not only plays center on the hockey team’s first line but is a running back on the Little Falls football team. Wearing a facemask on the ice and a plastic visor on the football field protects his vision, but still … this is remarkable.
“I don’t notice it at all,” Ben told me. “It’s just like nothing’s wrong.”
He was just learning how to walk, pushing a wheeled planter across the floor. The toddler lost his balance and a brass rod on the planter struck his right eye. From that day forward, Ben has seen the world through his left eye.
“We’ve always been aware that he only has one eye,” Flyers coach Tony Couture said. “It’s a unique situation because you don’t realize what he goes through on a daily basis, and I don’t think he understands the whole process, either.
“The fact is that when he had his injury he was very young. He’s never had to play with two eyes so he doesn’t really know. You put your hand over one eye and your peripheral vision only goes so far.”
Couture said the coaching staff thought about putting Ben at wing, where his vision issue might not come into play as much as it could at center ice.
“But he’s been our center for a couple years now,” Couture said. “He never complains about anything. He’s kind of a hardnosed kid, a smart hockey player, kind of that grinder type.”
Newman became the 18th member of the Little Falls career 100-point club this season, and he has 21 goals and 24 assists in 2011-12. His linemates are Joey Hanowski (31 goals, 26 assists) and Luke Majerle (14 and 29). Majerle leadsthe Flyers in plus-minus this season at +44, and Newman is next at +43.
“For me, I just try to keep my head on a swivel more than other people,” Ben said.
A miracle? Maybe. Remarkable? Absolutely.
CLASS 1A RESULTS
--St. Thomas Academy 7, Little Falls 0: Senior Andrew Commers had two goals and three assists and freshman Tom Novak had two goals and two assists for the Cadets, who outshot the Flyers 42-15.
--Breck 7, Duluth Marshall 0: The Mustangs scored their first three goals on power plays and cruised past the Hilltoppers. Matt Colford had two goals and and assist.
--Hermantown 7, Rochester Lourdes 2: Jared Thomas scored twice and added two assists for the top-seeded Hawks, who moved to 29-0. The score was 2-2 late in the first period before Hermantown did the rest of the scoring.
--Thief River Falls 5, New Ulm 1: Riley Soderstrom and Tanner Nessen each scored twice as the Prowlers advanced to meet Hermantown in Friday’s semifinals.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
--Hermantown coach Bruce Plante referred to senior goaltender Matt Mensigner, who made 13 saves, as “a maniac genius.” He meant it as a compliment.
TWEET OF THE DAY
--“My friends and I are sitting in class, following your tweets. Excited to be at the X tomorrow!”
--My reply: “Keep those phones hidden.”
OVERHEARD NEAR THE MINI DONUT STAND
--“Oh God, they’re five dollars.”
Long before the first skate touched ice, the Little Falls pep band opened the musical portion of the tournament with the Yardbirds classic, "For Your Love." That one’s from 1965. To which I can relate.
--Pretty fair “Chicken Dance” rendition by the Duluth Marshall band. Couple of talented kids on snare in that bunch.
--To see a photo gallery from the tournament, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
--Diet Coke Count: 5 for the day, 5 for the tournament, 35 for the winter tournaments.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 397
*Miles John has driven: 6,649
--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn