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Behind the scenes

By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 13, 2003

A player with an open wound will let just about anyone sew him back together, but it's reassuring to have someone such as Dr. Charles Slonim around.

An ophthalmologist with a sub-specialty in plastic surgery, the 50-year-old Slonim sutures players who are cut during home games. He closed a gash over Martin St. Louis' left cheek with 24 stitches during the second period of Game 1 of the East quarterfinals and gave Cory Sarich seven above his eye during Game 2 after he was hit by the puck while on the bench.

DO YOU GET PAID? "I've been doing this since the team's inception, and I don't get paid. But I get two seats by the rail by the bench. If they need me, someone turns and gives me the sewing sign, and I head in."

IS THERE A LOT OF PRESSURE TO GET A PLAYER BACK IN THE GAME? "I have to stitch them up very fast. If they're really needed back in the game, sometimes you stitch them enough to get them back and after the game you do a better job. When St. Louis got cut, it so happened that a vein was cut, so I had to tie that off before I could suture. He just kept bleeding. If you don't stop it first, it will continue to bleed and leak through the stitches. And that won't do anyone any good."

ARE HOCKEY PLAYERS GOOD PATIENTS? "They're unlike any other patient of mine. I have patients who ask if they can have a week off with a much smaller cut. With these guys, I'm lucky to get the last stitch in because they are trying to get off the table and get back in the game while I'm still stitching."

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO SEW 24 STITCHES? "Ten-12 minutes."

DO THEY GET ANY PAINKILLER? "I numb them with a little novocaine, but some players don't want it. Some of the Russians and Eastern Bloc guys don't like needles."

WHO'S THE TOUGHEST GUY YOU EVER STITCHED? "(Former Lightning) Rudy Poeschek."

THE MOST SQUEAMISH? "I don't want to say his name, but he plays for the Maple Leafs. And he'll tell you ahead of time he doesn't like needles. He's one of the toughest guys in the league, but he doesn't like needles."

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