Minneapolis South High goalie Tony Julin, who lost an eye when a shot hit him during practice 45 years ago, returned to the ice seven weeks later with a glass eye and a renewed sense of determination.

A January 2010 interview update follows this report from the Minneapolis Star Jan. 6, 1972.

 

South’s one-eyed goalie makes comeback

As a Hill-Murray player skated in toward him Wednesday, South High School goalie Tony Julin slid smoothly to one side and blocked a shot.

It was just a hockey scrimmage with no score kept. But regardless of whether he stopped all the Hill-Murray shots, Julin was a hero to his teammates.

Julin has only one eye. He lost the other one in November [1971] when he had his mask off and a flying puck shattered it, necessitating its removal. It was replaced by a glass eye. It was almost seven weeks before he put on skates again.

It appeared to South fans Tony was through with hockey. The South High School newspaper had him out the remainder of the year at least.

But they didn’t reckon with this 16-year-old. “I always figured on coming back, and as goalie,” Tony said. “I’ll give it till next fall, and if I can’t hack it, then I’ll try to skate wing.”

He finds his greatest difficulty — as a one-eyed goaltender — is on the high shots.

“I still can’t get the angles right. And I don’t always know where the net is,” he said.

His coach, Jim Salwasser, isn’t surprised that Tony is back.

“He always had a lot of courage, and his attitude was always good,” said Salwasser. “He doesn’t want any special breaks. He told us that right away. He just wants to play.”

Tony had been involved in South hockey for less than a year before the injury, after attending DeLaSalle for ninth grade. Tony transferred to South and thus wasn’t eligible until last January.

This year, as a junior, he was battling senior Rick Rogers for the South goaltending job.

“They were pretty even at the time of the accident,” Salwasser said.

Tony had slipped off his mask before a skating drill, he said. Then he went back into the nets as some teammates finished some one-on-one drills. Down on one knee, Tony said he batted one puck away, then the second caught him.

“A lot of 16-year-olds lie down and never try anything again,” Salwasser said. “But Tony has never complained. And his teammates are behind him 100 percent.”

JANUARY 2010 UPDATE:

Tony Julin, 54, is a software engineer in Chandler, Ariz. He has two grown daughters, a son in eighth grade and a 4-year-old granddaughter.

His high school career ended not long after the scrimmage against Hill-Murray. With one eye, he had difficulty tracking the puck and anticipating plays that developed on his blind side.

He did get back on the ice a few years later, playing in bar leagues after graduating from high school. “It was a lot of fun,” he says. “We actually made it to the championship in Owatonna one year.”

He hasn’t played hockey since moving to Arizona in the 1980s.

He says some good came of the accident that cost him his left eye. Not long afterward, hockey associations in Minnesota began requiring all players to wear eye protection.