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Ottawa optometrist assists Pens' Fleury

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Every once in a while, Ottawa Senators fan and longtime Ottawa optometrist Janet Leduc would look at her television and cringe.

It would happen when the Penguins were on. Dr. Leduc could not understand why their goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury, was dressed so loudly.

"For three or four years, every time I walked past and saw those yellow pads, I'd say, 'What is that boy thinking?' " Dr. Leduc recalled Tuesday in a phone interview. "I'd wonder, 'Why doesn't someone tell him?' because it's not a secret."

By that, Dr. Leduc meant the notion that yellow is the most sensitive color to the human eye - in this case, shooters' eyes in a hockey game.

"When they're moving that fast and can see the goal pads, the goalie, the net, it makes it a little bit easier to shoot on net," Dr. Leduc said.

Dr. Leduc, 50, explained as much in a letter sent to Penguins executives this past winter, in which she suggested Fleury switch to white pads. Fleury, recuperating from an ankle injury, got a hold of the letter.

"I thought about (the suggestion)," Fleury said then, "and I thought, 'Maybe it's time.' "

Upon his return, Fleury looked like a different man, having replaced his yellow pads and blocker with white ones. He played like a different man, too, ripping off 10 wins in 12 starts going into tonight's Game 1 matchup against the Senators.

Fleury isn't sold that pad color is the reason for his hot streak, but he does say, "I think I'll keep them."

Yellow pads had become Fleury's trademark, one copied by many a youth league goaltender.

"That was the tough part," Fleury said. "At first, I didn't want to do it. I'd see so many kids in hockey schools with yellow pads."

He laughed and added, "You know, I'm sorry to the moms and dads. It was a tough choice."

The toughest part for Dr. Leduc was the realization that her beloved Senators would meet the Penguins in the first round. A story in yesterday's Ottawa Citizen should make her a celebrity of sorts.

But if she's worried about becoming Ottawa's answer to Steve Bartman (the Chicago Cubs fan whose foul ball catch might have robbed the Cubs of a trip to the World Series), she isn't letting on.

"Well, I have been called a traitor already," she said, laughing. "But mostly, people still like me. My neighbor phoned and said she'll help me with a disguise for Game 3 (in Ottawa)."

Dr. Leduc said she hasn't heard from Fleury or the Penguins but welcomes the possibility.

"I expect at least an autographed jersey," she said.

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