NHL Scary Moments: 5 Injuries Reminding Us Safety is Paramount
Hockey is a fast and physical game and for many; that is part of the allure of the sport. But while big hits and fights can be exciting, no one wants to see a player get injured.
Recently there has been an influx in injuries, some that cannot be prevented and happen within the flow of the game. However, there are other injuries in which the NHL can prevent by putting certain measures in place.
The NHL so far has done a good job in limiting the amount of injuries in the game, but confusion and gray areas remain.
With the recent injuries, Colin Campbell has a tough job to do and important decisions to make. The NHL needs to make a few changes to make sure that no matter what, safety comes first.
Whatever the injury, it's tough to watch when they occur. Injuries remind us that in the end, it is just a game and these men have families, friends. They are fathers, husbands, sons, brothers.
We look at five injuries that we hope to never see again.
#5: Steve Moore
On March 8, 2004 Steve Moore suffered injuries that ended a very short NHL career. Colorado Avalanche's Moore had injured Vancouver Canuck's Marcus Naslund in a previous meeting with a clean shoulder check.
On March 8, the Canucks set out for retribution. In the third period, Todd Bertuzzi attempted to start a fight with Moore, to which Moore did not oblige.
Instead of continuing on playing, Bertuzzi skated up behind Moore and sucker punched him in the head, knocking him out. Bertuzzi then fell on top of Moore as he collapsed, driving his face into the ice.
Moore sustained three fractured vertebrae, facial cuts and a concussion. As a result of his injuries, Moore never played again, ending his career after only 69 NHL games.
#4: Trent McCleary
Another career that was tragically cut short was that of Montreal Canadiens right wingers, Trent McCleary.
In a game against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 29, 2000, McCleary attempted to block a slap shot. In doing so, McCleary took the slap shot to his throat and suffered a fractured larynx and as a result, a collapsed lung.
McCleary was unable to breathe and immediately taken off the ice. Before rushing him to an ambulance, the medical staff of the Molson Centre was able to partially open McCleary's airway.
McCleary has credited the medical staff with saving his life.
At the hospital, an emergency tracheotomy was performed and McCleary's condition was stabilized.
Six weeks later, after several surgeries, McCleary regained his ability to talk and announced that he was hopeful of returning to the NHL next season.
After signing a one-year deal with the Canadiens, he played in a few exhibition games but was unable to stay on for long shifts, finding himself too easily winded. Team doctors noted that it was too dangerous for him to play, due to his airway being 15% narrower after the surgeries.
On September 20, 2000, McCleary, in his admitted "toughest day", announced his retirement.
#3: Richard Zednik
In one of the most recent—and most scary—incidents the NHL has seen, Florida Panthers RW Richard Zednik almost lost his life.
Zednik's external carotid artery was cut by teammate Olli Jokinen's skate blade on February 10, 2008 while playing the Buffalo Sabres. Zednik, immediately skated to the bench, leaving a trail of blood as he went.
Florida trainer Dave Zenobi and medical personnel attended to him in the arena until emergency personnel arrived and took him to a Buffalo area hospital. The injury caused a long delay in the game, as the Zamboni's had to be brought out to clean up the blood.
After discussing with officials and learning of Zednik's condition being stabilized, NHL Vice-President Colin Campbell allowed the game to continue.
Acting with class, the Buffalo fans in attendance cheered as the announcement of Zednik's condition being stabilized was made.
Zednik lost five units of blood, but because the artery was only cut and not completely severed, his life was never in serious jeopardy.
Zednik did go on to play again in the NHL briefly, before heading to Russia to play where he still plays today.
#2: Clint Malarchuk
Buffalo Sabres goaltender Clint Malarchuk is infamously known for an injury that occurred on March 22, 1989 in a game against the St. Louis Blues.
In a collision between two tangled players, Malarchuk's internal jugular vein was severed. The injury caused pools of blood to collect on the ice within seconds.
Malarchuk immediately left the ice with the assistance of team trainer Jim Pizzutelli.
Malarchuk's life was saved by Pizzutelli, a former army medic who served in Vietnam. Pizzutelli was able to find the vein and pinch off the bleeding until doctors could arrive and suture the wound.
Malarchuk, in recounting the scary moment stated "All I wanted to do was get off the ice", he continued "My mother was watching the game on TV, and I didn't want her to see me die."
In fact, he was so sure his fate was sealed he had a team equipment manager call his mother to tell her he loved her and even asked for a priest.
Malarchuk escaped sure death by 3 mm; if the skate blade had cut him an 1/8 inch higher, he would have bled out much quicker.
Malarchuk went on to play again in the NHL and recovered fully from the freak injury that nearly ended his life.
#1: Bill Masterton
On January 15, 1968, the hockey world lost the first and only player ever to injuries sustained in a game.
Two days earlier, on January 13th, in a game against the Oakland Seals, Bill Masterton of the Minnesota North Starts had fallen backward heavily, hitting his head on the ice. At the time, players were not required to wear helmets.
While on the ice, emergency aid was rendered to Masterton by Dr. Charles Kelly, one of three Minnesota team physicians. Kelly was assisted by trainers Stan Waylett and Al Scheueman.
After being taken to the hospital, Masterton was put under the care of five physicians headed by Dr. Lyle French, Chief Neuro Surgeon of University of Minnesota hostpitals.
The former Denver University All American sadly never regained consciousness, and the hockey world lost one of its young men. Masterton died at the age of 29.
The Bill Masterton Trophy is named in his honor and is awarded to players who show dedication, sportsmanship and perseverance.
Through this tragedy, some good was able to be found. As a result of this incident, player safety was put into the forefront of discussions and after much lobbying, helmets were mandated in 1979 for players entering the NHL.
Time For a Change
While some good came from the fatal injury to Bill Masterton, it is important that we learn from our mistakes and make sure that an injury like that never happens again.
With the recent string of concussions that are sweeping the league, the NHL must put into place preventative measures before someone loses their life.
With players such as Marc Savard, Sidney Crosby are sidelined with concussions, it should be a clear message that something needs to be done. While Savard's and Crosby's injuries are not life threatening, they can be career threatening.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Vice-President and Director of Operations Colin Campbell have taken heat for their handling of recent situations.
At some point there needs to be a line drawn and stances taken. The NHL has an opportunity to prevent these injuries from happening in the future; it would be wise to act on it.