Big House awaits Bell

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

Mark Bell peers through the bars of his face shield these days, trying not to think of what awaits him this summer.

But deep down inside, he knows he likely will be behind bars for a significant chunk of his off-season.

Jail cell bars.

With just one week remaining in the Maple Leafs season, Bell soon must deal with his past demons and face the legal woes that await him in California.

Eighteen months ago an intoxicated Bell rear-ended a pickup truck with his Toyota sedan in the quiet community of Milpitas, Calif. He subsequently pleaded no contest to drunk driving and hit-and-run charges, which Santa Clara County officials claim will land him in jail for an extended period.

To this point, Bell said he does not know how much time he will have to serve. He just wants to get it over with.

"To be honest, I haven't thought about it much," Bell said yesterday. "It's pretty amazing but I've put it out of my mind while the season is going on.

"My lawyer just told me to call him after the season. There are a couple of dates involved but I have to talk to him to figure out the details.

"The main thing is, it's a chapter of my life I want to close. I made a mistake, I think I've dealt with it well and I'm going to learn from it.

"I just want to do what I have to do and move on with my life."

A life that has been in turmoil for the past almost two years.

When Bell was shipped to the Leafs along with Vesa Toskala by the San Jose Sharks last summer, he thought his career might be entering a new chapter.

Little did he know the turmoil would continue, starting with a 15-game suspension to begin the season levied by the NHL for his actions in California one year earlier.

Once he resumed playing, he was in the lineup for less than two months when he suffered a fractured orbital bone during a fight in Pittsburgh in early January. He only recently took to the ice again, needing a cage on his helmet to protect his healing face.

While Bell looks forward to training camp in September, speculation already has started that he could be bought out over the summer.

"What more could go wrong? Maybe I could have got suspended again," Bell chuckled.


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