Discover more from Shap Shots
As Matt Luff learned, vulcanized rubber can hurt
Red Wings forward has the mark to prove it still on his mouthguard
DETROIT — Next time you get the chance, grab a hockey puck and feel the tread along the sides.
It’s course, almost like a low-grit sandpaper, and it’s that edge that allows more control of the puck on a stick while the smooth top and bottom glide along the ice.
That tread can also leave it’s mark, as Detroit Red Wings forward Matt Luff learned the hard way on Saturday when an 89-mile-per-hour shot by Matt Dumba deflected up and into his chin.
Luff’s mouthpiece that he was wearing that day, still has permanent tread marks now embedded into it.
“I’m gonna need a new one,” Luff joked on Thursday morning.
Luff has yet to lose any teeth in his hockey career, but that status is likely going to change soon. Two of his top teeth were bent back and got shaved down this week by a dentist, five or six teeth on the bottom are, “just hanging on by a thread,” and the dentist told him they’ll likely die soon.
Shap Shots is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
After that it’ll be about six months before he could get replacement teeth in, Luff said.
“I kind of was always ready to lose a tooth, I’m a hockey player, but I kind of wanted it to be a high stick or something like that and just one,” Luff said. “It’s gonna suck to eat, it’s gonna look weird, and I still can’t feel that part of my mouth.”
Speaking of sucking, Luff said whomever invented the straw is now his hero (Marvin Stone if you want to google it), and he’s on a primarily liquid diet of smoothies with soften foods — salmon mostly — that he’s chewing with the right side of his mouth.
Luff said he doesn’t like blood or needles, which made the reconstruction of part of his face particularly difficult when he was on the trainers table for 45 minutes getting stitched up.
At one point, Luff said, the doctor was able to put his thumb, pointer finger and middle finger through the hole and Luff could see down into jaw bone.
(For someone that had dealt with vasovagal syncope for blood and needles in the past, that was just a difficult sentence for me to write.)
In the end it was 16 stitches, eight on the inside and eight on the outside, and Luff was back at practice the next day and played on Monday against the Buffalo Sabres.
“I missed the end of the game (against Minnesota), missed Dylan’s (Larkin) postgame speech and everything on the table,” Luff said. “It felt weird, still feels weird, may for a long time. But it doesn’t impact my game.”
And Luff’s game has been one that’s been better than expected since he was recalled from Grand Rapids and the AHL after injuries struck for the Red Wings. He was praised by Red Wings coach Derek LaLonde on Thursday morning, and tonight he’ll still be back in the lineup, albeit with a slightly fatter lip.
In fact, Luff said one of the most stressful part of the whole injury came after the game when he was trying to get back to the hotel where he’s staying while in the NHL. With a bloody gaping wound, the clerk at the front desk of the hotel assumed he was someone a bit inebriated and dressed for Halloween.
Luckily Luff said one of the other employees recognized him as he was struggling to hold a gauze on his face.
“It’s how I’ve had people recognize me other ways too now,” Luff said. “Like I went to get groceries and someone stared and then said, ‘Oh are you that Red Wings guy that got hit in the face?’”
Enjoy off-the-beaten path stories and things like, well, this? Consider a paid subscription to Shap Shots, it’s $7 per month and paid subscriptions help keep this thing running