"Hey, can you guys recommend a good video on how to block shots?" Laperriere said to a few reporters by his locker room stall. "I'm 36 years old, and I guess I still have no idea what the heck I'm doing out there." Through the pain, Laperriere laughed.
This is Ian Laperriere throughout this uplifting Flyers' run, enjoying, cherishing every moment as his team prepares to host Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. Okay, there was that brief period when the brain injury had him down.
"You hear 'brain injury,' and you get a little scared about your future," Laperriere said after practice on Tuesday at Wachovia Center. "When I say future, I don't mean about my hockey career. I have a wife and children. For a few days after the Devils series, I was wondering what was in store for me."
Blackhawks vs. Flyers Series Page
A scrappy middleweight who plays as legally as possible when the referees are looking, Laperriere has always been a good soul off the ice. Teammates love him and learn from him. Fans know he may only play 10 minutes a game some night, but he's a star in their eyes. Laperriere is always available and courteous with media -- including, astoundingly to this writer, a few minutes after he suffered the brain injury in New Jersey.
I asked him if he even remembers the conversation.
"I do," he said. "Believe it or not, I knew what I was doing and knew what I was saying. I remember telling you guys that I would wear a shield for the rest of my playing career. As bad as I felt, as bad as I looked, I didn't have any post-concussion effects. The bad times came later on, when I started to experience vertigo.
"The doctors told me the vertigo came from the impact of the slap shot banging off the back of my ear. It took close to two weeks of rest and treatment before I felt better. When I did, it seemed like I had my life back."
If you thought Laperriere relished every moment in this hockey life before the injury scare, you should see him now.
"Hey, less than a month ago, I didn't know if I would play hockey again and what my life would be with my family," he said. "For me, these last few weeks have been an incredible bonus. I'm 36. I have two years left on this contract. But you don't know in this business what's around the corner. I don't have 10, 15 years left like a lot of the kids in this locker room. I want this Stanley Cup more than anything. I'm also going to enjoy every minute of the ride."
Laperriere knocked on the wooden bench at the stall of his teammate Simon Gagne.
"I've always loved coming to the rink, but this time now is special. If you can't enjoy being in the Stanley Cup Final, I think there may be something wrong with you."