Injuries are a part of every sport.
Sometimes the injured player is able to fully recover from the damage to their body and resume their career as if nothing ever happened. Other times the player is able to get back in the game, but at a slightly diminished level. In the worst case scenario, the injury results in the player being forced to retire or risk permanent damage.
What follows is an examination of the NHL players that fall into the latter category, players that were forced into retirement before their careers were close to being over. Had these players been able to stay healthy, they all may have already had their names enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Some may still get there, but some will always wonder "what if?"
Mickey Redmond has a place in Detroit Red Wings history. He was the first player for the Wings to ever top the 50 goal mark, sinking 52 during the 1972-73 season. He would top 50 goals again the next year, but after that injuries took their toll on Redmond.
He sustained a back injury during the 1974-75 season that limited him to 29 games. The following year he only played 37 games before being forced to retire at only 28 years of age.
Had Redmond been healthy, the Red Wings may have been able to hold onto his young linemate, Marcel Dionne. The numbers that duo could have put up would have been impressive, but alas it was not to be.
Redmond finished his career with 428 points in 538 games.
During the 1990’s there were two defensemen that were universally feared: the New Jersey Devils’ Scott Stevens and the Detroit Red Wings’ Vladimir Konstantinov.
Stevens was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007—his first year of eligibility. It’s very likely Konstantinov would reside in the Hall next to Stevens had his career not been cut short.
Konstantinov’s ascent was stopped by an off-ice injury suffered when his limousine crashed six days after the Red Wings had won the 1997 Stanley Cup with a sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Konstantinov’s most dominating season was the 1996 season when he posted a plus 60, the only defenseman to hit plus 60 or more since Mark Howe put up a plus 85 in 1986.
Konstantinov was a hard hitting, defensive defenseman who—had he not suffered an injury that has left him confined to a wheelchair—would most likely be in the Hall of Fame.
As far as specialists being in the Hall of Fame, Dino Ciccarelli seems to be the standard. Ciccarelli, recognized by many as the king of the “garbage goals,” potted 608 goals during his 1232-game NHL career.
That standard sets the bar fairly high, probably too high for Philadelphia Flyers' power play specialist Tim Kerr to ever see enshrinement in the Hall.
An injury-plagued career saw the undrafted Kerr play in only 655 games, putting the puck in the net a total of 370 times and adding 304 helpers for a total of 674 points.
Injuries limited Kerr to 24 games in 1982-83 and eight games in 1987-88. The latter was particularly devastating for Kerr and the Flyers as he had scored more than 50 goals in each of the previous four seasons—a number he would never hit again over the remainder of his career.
It’s unlikely Kerr will ever see his name in the Hall, but he may have already been enshrined had he remained healthy.
Mike Richter was a winner.
He backstopped the New York Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup. He was the goaltender for the United States in the inaugural World Cup of Hockey and took home the MVP during the tournament. He was even a silver medalist for the US at the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Richter is also one of the best U.S. born goaltenders in NHL history, putting up 301 career wins in 666 games.
Richter suffered many injuries over his career, but the one that brought things to a close was a concussion on November 5, 2002.
Richter is enshrined in the US Hockey Hall of Fame and has had his number retired by the Rangers. In addition to those accolades and despite his injuries, Richter deserves a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Eric Lindros may still be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame at some point, and if he is, it will be a a totally justified honor.
If he is continuously passed over, look to him to become the newest version of Paul Henderson—a player heralded as someone who truly deserves to be in the Hall, but fails to make the cut year after year.
In his prime, Lindros was the most feared player in the NHL. He could play with finesse and style, but he would just as soon run over his opponent than try and avoid them with a fancy deke or a no-look pass.
He took the old adage that the fastest distance between two points is a straight line and applied it to his hockey game. If the opposition didn’t like it, he would just as easily use his fists to settle the score.
He was the protypical power forward, taking what Cam Neely did before him and ramping it up a notch. But he was more than a beast on the ice—he was a scoring machine.
His career points per game average of 1.138 puts him at 19th all-time, one spot behind Steve Yzerman and one spot in front of Bernie Federko.
Had Lindros stayed healthy, he would already be in the Hall of Fame.