Legally blind Leafs’ fan sees Friday’s game with eSight4 glasses

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Hockey Night in Canada just got a whole lot better for one happy fan.

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Eric MacDonald saw Friday night’s Leaf’s game against Boston. The last time he saw his beloved team play live, he says, Philadelphia Flyer Ron Hextall was a rookie.

That’s better than 30 years ago.

“And we sat in the nosebleed section,” said MacDonald.

Seeing the Maple Leafs play again — ever — is more than just a logistical issue for the Halifax resident. MacDonald began to lose his sight of him around 12 years ago.

He is legally blind.

Now, thanks to We Are Younga non-profit in Nova Scotia that grants wishes to seniors, and eSight vision-enhancing eyewareMacDonald got to Toronto to see the Leafs at Scotiabank Arena.

And he will “see” them.

At 78, the father of four suffers from diminished vision. For years MacDonald has followed the Leafs on the radio, maintaining his encyclopedic knowledge of the team’s every move despite his inability to watch them play.

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We Are Young heard about his predicament and partnered with eSight to grant his wish to attend a Leafs’s game — with an eSight 4 device, allowing him to actually see it.

The eSight 4 is completely portable, sight-enhancing eyeware involving a high-def, high-speed camera, two OLED screens and various technologies to capture and display a real-time video feed.

For those with central vision loss, like MacDonald, the eSight device is miraculous.

Eric MacDonald, 78, uses an eSight 4 device in preparation to watch the Maple Leafs play on Friday night.  Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network
Eric MacDonald, 78, uses an eSight 4 device in preparation to watch the Maple Leafs play on Friday night. Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

As you’d expect, it’s also expensive, retailing for several thousand dollars.

MacDonald’s big adventure in Toronto was put off more than once over the two years of COVID, but he finally arrived here Friday before the game.

He’s traveling with his adult grandson, Mathew Smith.

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In a recent interview, MacDonald spoke about his vision loss, explaining that he lives on a rural property outside Halifax and had to give up hunting some years ago.

He said he tried to take up knitting and spent some time beading at a local community centre. That’s where he encountered someone from We Are Young who suggested he submit his wish of seeing the Leafs live.

“I said, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever won anything like that.’ I wasn’t really looking forward to anything. When they told me I was chosen, I told my wife right away.

“Who would have thought little old Eric would get to Upper Canada?” said MacDonald, laughing.

He’s excited to be in Toronto.

“We’re going to have a good time! If we can just get tickets to the ballgame, we’ll be all set.”

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(Thanks to Adam Felton, Manager of Baseball Communications for the Blue Jays, MacDonald and Mathew now have tickets to Saturday’s home game against the Houston Astros. Who sez Toronto’s a cold city?)

Asked about using the eSight 4 unit, MacDonald said, “The biggest thing with the glasses is being able to see my wife.

“And I guess I’d better say my grandchildren, too — I’d better put in a plug for them,” he said, laughing.

“I’m really lucky.”

Eric MacDonald found out Friday that the eSight 4 unit he’s using in Toronto this weekend is his to keep, a gift from the Toronto-based eSight company.

Friday’s hockey game may be the first he’s seen in a long time, but it won’t be the last.

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