Hockey is a fast-paced game. Players deal with their opponents going by them at high speed and shooting pucks at more than 100 miles per hour. They put their bodies on the line for their teams without a second thought and play through pain that would put athletes in other sports on the sidelines.
But sometimes during the game, things happen that no one saw coming. A player takes a hit the wrong way or ends up in the line of fire of a puck, and they end up seriously injured. Some players have pre-existing conditions that they or team doctors were unaware of, and they pass away before their time.
While no one likes to think of these things, they do happen, and the results can be heartbreaking to even the toughest of players.
This slideshow will cover some of the scariest on-ice incidents in hockey's history. Although the majority of these slides will be NHL related, I will talk about things that have happened in other hockey leagues.
WARNING: Some of the pictures, videos and stories contained in these slides may be upsetting or disturbing. Please use discretion while reading.
I could not find a video or image of this incident, so I will have to settle for telling the story. Use your imagination.
Ekman was playing for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2006-07 season and was in a December 2006 home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. After being routinely checked into the boards, Ekman immediately knew he had an arm injury of some sort. He grabbed his arm and skated right off the ice, going through a side entrance towards the Penguins locker room (at the old Mellon Arena, players had to cross the ice to get to the locker rooms).
He was diagnosed with a dislocated elbow, and an MRI revealed internal damage. He missed 28 games with the injury.
Although there was no blood, just the way Ekman ran off the ice immediately was enough to make this incident a scary one.
The Atlanta Thrashers were looking to get their 2010-11 season started right as they opened at home against the Washington Capitals on October 8.
But just over two minutes into the game, they found themselves dealing with a scary incident.
Play was focused in the Thrashers' end of the ice when Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec banged his stick on the ice and collapsed with no one around him. His teammates, as well as medical staff from both the Thrashers and the Capitals, raced to his side. He remained unconscious and was put on a backboard and stretcher, then transported to a local hospital.
Pavelec regained consciousness on the way to the hospital and later said that he did not remember anything before fainting. He was also unable to feel his legs.
After three days in the hospital, doctors determined that Pavelec experienced neurocardiogenic syncope, a type of fainting spell. He was diagnosed with a concussion as a result of hitting his head on the ice when he collapsed.
Again, I apologize for not having photo or video of this story.
Sigalet was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis while playing college hockey at Bowling Green. Despite this, he still earned a contract with the Boston Bruins organization and spent most of his career with their American Hockey League affiliate in Providence, Rhode Island.
During a 2007 game against the Worcester Sharks, Sigalet collapsed and was taken off the ice on a stretcher. It was later revealed that his collapse was due to side effects from multiple sclerosis. Sigalet was believed to be dealing with fatigue, and his MS symptoms were triggered by pyrotechnics effects used by the Manchester Monarchs at their home games. The Monarchs and the P-Bruins are frequent opponents, as both play in the AHL's Atlantic Division.
Sigalet last played professionally in the 2008-09 season for the Vienna Capitals in Austria. He was recently named the goaltending coach for the AHL's Abbotsford Heat, the Calgary Flames' minor league affiliate. This past season, he was a goaltending coach for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL.
During Game 3 of this year's Stanley Cup Finals, Aaron Rome of the Vancouver Canucks delivered a blindside hit to the head of star Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton. Rome led with his elbow to deliver the hit, which left Horton unable to move on the ice, even though he maintained consciousness.
Horton was diagnosed with a severe concussion and missed the rest of the finals. Rome served a four-game suspension and also received a game misconduct. The hit seemed to inspire the Bruins, who went on to win their first Stanley Cup in nearly 40 years.
Rene Bourque was playing with the Chicago Blackhawks when, during a 2006 home game with the Columbus Blue Jackets, he got tangled up with Nikolai Zherdev in the goal crease. Zherdev's leg came up, and his skate blade cut Bourque in the neck.
Bourque was transported to a hospital, where he spent three days and lost almost a liter of blood. After surgery to repair the injury, he missed 13 games before returning to the Hawks lineup.
In 2009, Ethan Moreau was the captain of the Edmonton Oilers as the team faced the Minnesota Wild at home. Late in the third period, Minnesota's Antti Miettinen accidentally caught Moreau with a high stick. When Moreau came up, his eye was already swollen and bleeding.
He was taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a scratched cornea and also had blood behind his eye. Although he returned to the lineup, his production dropped during the 2009-10 season, and he only played 37 games with Columbus this year after dealing with injuries.
The Philadelphia Phantoms and Manchester Monarchs were squaring off at the Wachovia Spectrum in a 2009 AHL game when this incident took place.
Philadelphia's Garrett Klotz and Manchester's Kevin Westgarth fought right after the opening faceoff in what was a fairly routine fight. Unfortunately, one of Westgarth's punches caused Klotz to fall over, and Klotz immediately started going into convulsions. He had hit the boards on his way down.
Klotz was taken to the hospital, but good news later came of this. He had only sustained a facial laceration and had no serious damage from the seizure. He was able to return to the Phantoms lineup.
Westgarth was also shaken by what happened. While he was in the penalty box, he was asking if Klotz was going to be OK and seemed to be looking on in concern.
The Nashville Predators were visiting the Detroit Red Wings in 2005 and held a 1-0 lead in the first period. During play, the TV cameras caught Wings coach Mike Babcock waving towards the bench for medical assistance. It turned out that Jiri Fischer had collapsed, possibly due to a rapid heartbeat, and went into a seizure.
The medical staff on hand needed to use CPR and an automated external defibrillator to resuscitate Fischer. The game was suspended and made up at a later time.
Fischer's condition forced him to retire from hockey at the age of 25. He currently works in the Red Wings front office as director of player development and started The Healthy Hope Jiri Fischer Foundation, an organization to put defibrillators in public facilities. The one in Joe Louis Arena that night no doubt helped save his life, and he now wants to make sure others' lives can be saved should something similar happen to them.
In the 2009-10 season, Ian Laperriere dealt with not one scary incident, but two.
He was first injured in November 2009 while his Philadelphia Flyers were playing the Buffalo Sabres. During the game, Laperriere was hit in the mouth with a slapshot. He was applauded by even non-Flyers fans when, despite needing between 50 and 100 stitches and losing seven teeth, he returned for the third period of play.
Unfortunately, he wouldn't be so lucky the second time.
The Flyers were facing off with the New Jersey Devils in Game 5 of the 2010 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Laperriere went down to block a shot and was struck in the face. He suffered from a brain contusion and an orbital injury, requiring 70 stitches.
He is now dealing with post-concussion syndrome and has not played since. Rumors have swirled that he might retire from the game and was encouraged to do so by doctors. However, despite being sidelined this year, he was awarded the 2011 Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverance.
Berard was playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2000 when his career was changed forever during a game against the Ottawa Senators.
Marian Hossa, who was playing for Ottawa at the time, accidentally speared Berard in the right eye. Berard was hit on the sclera, the protective outer layer of the eye, and could've lost his eye altogether. The trainer needed a lot of time to get the bleeding under control, and once at the hospital, Berard's retina had to be re-attached.
Berard was able to return to play after seven surgeries and was fitted with a special contact lens to meet the NHL's minimum vision requirement. He was awarded the 2004 Masterton Trophy.
He has not played since a stint in the KHL during the 2008-09 season, but he has not formally announced his retirement.
The New York Islanders and the New York Rangers were matched up in another round of their rivalry in 2007 when Chris Simon of the Islanders battled Ryan Hollweg of the Rangers.
In the third period, Hollweg put a clean hit on Simon, which was left uncalled. Shortly after, Simon retaliated by checking Hollweg in the face with his stick. He had two hands on his stick and aimed right for Hollweg's face.
Pushing and shoving broke out between the teams as Hollweg laid on the ice. The injury ended up being much less serious than it looked. Hollweg had a cut on his chin and needed two stitches.
Simon, who had a history of violent on-ice attacks, received a match penalty for attempt to injure and was later suspended 25 games. He claimed to not be in the right frame of mind when he went after Hollweg and did not remember what had happened. He has not played in the NHL since the 2008-09 season.
Hollweg now plays in the Phoenix Coyotes organization, where most of his time has been spent in the AHL.
In a Boston Bruins home game early in the 2007-08 season, Randy Jones of the Flyers and Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins were both in a chase for the puck when Jones delivered a controversial hit on Bergeron. He checked Bergeron from behind, and the Bruins star forward fell on the ice after his face hit the glass.
Bergeron was knocked out and was motionless on the ice. The game was stopped for 10 minutes as medical staff worked on Bergeron. They had to cut off his jersey and pads and put him on a backboard before taking him to the hospital. Bergeron was diagnosed with a Grade 3 concussion and a broken nose. He ended up missing the rest of the season, and it was the first of two concussions in his career.
Jones was given a five-minute match penalty on the play and was suspended for two games. He did attempt to contact Bergeron to apologize.
During a 2010 Minnesota Wild home game with the Calgary Flames, veteran Flames forward Daymond Langkow was struck in the neck with a puck as defenseman Ian White fired a shot towards the Wild goal.
Langkow suffered a broken vertebra and spinal cord damage as a result of the accident. He was out of the lineup for over a year, and although he tried to work out, he suffered setbacks such as numbness in his lower body. He was able to suit up in one of the Flames' final games of the 2010-11 season.
His comeback to the game earned him a nomination for the 2011 Masterton Trophy.
Darcy Robinson was far from a household name in the hockey world, but that doesn't make what happened to him in Italy in 2007 any easier to cope with.
Robinson, a defenseman who was a former Penguins draft pick, was playing for Asiago in the Serie A Italian hockey league. In Asiago's home opener, he collapsed to the ice without being hit. He died en route to the hospital, and the news was brought to his team late in the third period.
It was believed that Robinson had a congenital heart disease which led to him having a heart attack. Ultimately, the autopsy revealed that he had died from a virus in his heart wall.
Cherepanov, a Rangers draft pick, was playing in the KHL at the time of this scary moment in 2008.
Cherepanov had just played a shift and was sitting next to teammate Jaromir Jagr on the bench when he collapsed. The medical staff available worked on him on the bench, but to make matters worse, the ambulance that was on hand for all games had already left the arena and needed to be called back. It was going to take 15 minutes for arena doctors to get on the scene, and Cherepanov faced a 20-minute hospital ride.
The young forward was carried back to the locker room and was able to be resuscitated briefly, but he lost consciousness each time. The ambulance he was taken in didn't have a defibrillator, and the one in the arena had no battery life. Cherepanov died two hours later in a Russia hospital.
The official cause of death was myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. However, it was also revealed that Cherepanov had taken a stimulant before his final game and may have previously engaged in doping.
Regardless of the circumstances, it's hard to swallow that this could have been avoided. Cherepanov may still be alive if proper medical care and equipment was immediately available, but sadly, we will never know.
Brittanie Cecil was attending her first hockey game back in 2002, a Blue Jackets home matchup with the Flames.
During play, Jackets forward Espen Knutsen took a slap shot which was deflected by Calgary's Derek Morris. The puck went into the stands and hit Cecil in the left temple before bouncing off another fan. At first, she walked to the first aid station on her own power and was even excited that she would get to keep the puck as a souvenir.
Although she suffered a seizure at the hospital, she was still communicating with her family the next day.
Unfortunately, that would not last long.
Cecil had had a CT scan at the hospital, but it failed to catch a damaged vertebral artery in her neck. She developed a high fever and slipped into a coma as a result, dying two days before her 14th birthday. The artery had been damaged when her head snapped back after being hit.
Knutsen was devastated by the young girl's death and had a hard time playing without thinking of what happened, even though Cecil's family did not hold him responsible.
The accident prompted the NHL, as well as other hockey leagues, to require safety netting in all arenas.
The Penguins and the Islanders were facing off in Game 7 of the 1993 Patrick Division Finals. For the Penguins, a win would bring the chance at a third consecutive Stanley Cup.
During the game, Stevens went to check Rich Pilon of the Islanders, but instead, the two players collided. Pilon's visor struck Stevens, knocking him unconscious as he fell to the ice face first.
Stevens needed reconstructive surgery on his forehead and nose. Doctors repaired the damage by putting metal plates in his face when they rearranged the bones and cut an incision from his ear to his hairline. He needed 100 stitches to close the wound.
Although Stevens was able to continue playing for several more years, his career was never the same after this.
During a 2008 Buffalo Sabres game against the Florida Panthers, Olli Jokinen was tripped up alongside the boards. As he fell, his skate cut teammate Richard Zednik. Zednik immediately realized what happened and raced off the ice, where he fell into the arms of the Panthers trainer. He left a trail of blood behind him as he skated off.
When Zednik got to a hospital, he had low blood pressure and needed a tube in his neck to help him breathe. He also lost five units of blood and needed emergency surgery to repair his internal carotid artery. He missed the rest of the 2007-08 season to recover, but played for the Panthers the following season.
Back in 1933, as the Maple Leafs took on the Bruins, one of the earliest documented scary on-ice accidents took place.
Ace Bailey was hit from behind by Eddie Shore and was knocked unconscious. As fights broke out on the ice (Shore was punched out by one of Bailey's teammates), Bailey laid unconscious and went into seizures. He suffered a fractured skull and needed two brain operations.
Bailey was unable to play hockey again, but despite this, he forgave Shore, saying that what the Bruins bruiser did was just a hockey play. The All-Star benefit game held to raise funds for Bailey and his family helped shape the modern NHL All-Star Game into a yearly tradition.
At the time of this accident, Don Sanderson was playing for the Whitby Dunlops of the Ontario Hockey Association, a senior league for players who are no longer eligible for junior leagues.
The Dunlops were playing the Branford Blast when Sanderson engaged in a routine fight. Sanderson lost his helmet, as is typical of many hockey fights, but hit his head on the ice. He lost consciousness and had brain surgery in the hospital, but he remained in a coma for three weeks.
Sanderson died on January 2, 2009, and his death again sparked an argument about banning fighting in hockey.
Roy had earned a scholarship to play hockey at Boston University and was playing the first game of his first season in 1995 when his life was changed forever.
Eleven seconds into his first shift, Roy slid head first into the boards. He was stabilized and taken to the hospital after laying on the ice motionless. He also said he could not feel his arms or legs.
At the hospital, he needed a tracheotomy to help him breathe, and tests revealed his spinal cord was swollen. Furthermore, his fourth and fifth vertebrae were fractured, making him a quadriplegic and ending his hockey career.
Although Roy could no longer play hockey, he has managed to live a fulfilling life. He established the Travis Roy Foundation, which helps survivors of spinal cord injuries recover and carry out their normal life tasks. A book called Eleven Seconds was written about his short career and how his injury impacted his life. He also gives motivational speeches in the New England area.
Boston University honored Roy by retiring his No. 24, the only number in team history to be retired.
In 2000, Trent McCleary was playing for the Montreal Canadiens when he dropped to the ice to block a slap shot by Chris Therien of the Flyers. The puck struck McCleary in the throat and he collapsed on the bench as he attempted to get off the ice.
The puck fractured McCleary's larynx, and he also suffered a collapsed lung. Upon getting to the hospital, he needed a tracheotomy. Doctors did not have time to remove his gear, so he still had his skates on after the procedure was complete.
McCleary could not speak for six weeks after operations. He tried to make a comeback but was forced to retire after he could not work out without getting short of breath. His doctor told him his airway was 15 percent narrower, making it difficult for him to breathe.
Before Patrick Eaves came into the NHL, he was a part of one of the scariest incidents in any hockey league.
In 2003, Eaves was playing for Boston College as they took on Merrimack College. Joe Exter, Merrimack's goaltender, and Eaves were in a battle for the puck when they collided along the boards. Exter's mask fell off and he hit his head on the ice. He started bleeding from his ears and going into convulsions.
Exter was in a coma for 10 days and was diagnosed with a skull fracture. He also had to go to rehabilitation and re-learn to do simple tasks such as swallowing.
Doctors thought Exter's career would be over, but he proved them wrong. He spent two seasons with the Wheeling Nailers, the Penguins' ECHL affiliate.
Since leaving the ice, Exter has made a nice career out of coaching. He was the USA Hockey National Development Team's goaltending coach for four seasons and was recently hired as an assistant coach for The Ohio State University hockey team.
In a February 16, 2004 game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Vancouver Canucks, Avalanche forward Steve Moore injured Canucks captain Markus Naslund by checking him from behind. Naslund suffered a concussion, and the Canucks were looking for revenge. However, when the teams played again in early March, the game went off without any problems.
But on March 8, 2004, Todd Bertuzzi, who was playing for the Canucks at the time, still wanted to retaliate against Moore.
During the third period, Bertuzzi wanted to fight Moore, who ignored his attempts. Finally, Bertuzzi grabbed Moore's jersey and punched him in the back of the head, and Moore fell face down on to the ice. Players from both teams piled on Moore, and fights broke out between the other players who were on the ice at the time.
Moore was taken out on a stretcher, and at a hospital, he was diagnosed with several injuries. He sustained three broken vertebrae, a concussion and facial lacerations while also suffering from amnesia.
Bertuzzi tearfully apologized in a press conference and was suspended for the rest of the season. He was also barred from playing overseas during the NHL lockout that canceled the entire 2004-05 campaign. Although Bertuzzi was reinstated before the 2005-06 season, he is still infamous for what he did back in 2004, and it will probably taint his legacy for years to come.
Moore has not played hockey since he was injured and has attempted to sue Bertuzzi and the Canucks for damages.
March 8, 2004 will always be one of the darkest days in NHL history.
During a 1968 game between the Oakland Seals and the Minnesota North Stars, Minnesota's Bill Masterton was checked by Larry Cahan and Ron Harris of the Oakland Seals. Masterton, who was not wearing a helmet at the time, fell backwards and hit on his ice.
At the hospital, doctors discovered that Masterton damaged his pons, a structure in the brain stem. They were unable to operate on the injury, and Masterton died two days later, becoming the first NHL player to die as a result of an on-ice accident. His death forced the NHL to make helmets mandatory for players.
In May, a report came out indicating that Masterton had a prior concussion and had been complaining of headaches before his final game. That may have played a part in his death, rather than it just being a result of being checked in the game against Oakland.
When talking about scary hockey game accidents or scary injuries in any sport, the first person that comes to mind is former Buffalo Sabres goaltender Clint Malarchuk.
In 1989, the Sabres were playing the St. Louis Blues when Steve Tuttle of the Blues ran into Malarchuk. Tuttle's skate cut the netminder, who began bleeding on to the ice right away. As the Sabres' trainer ran out, the television broadcasters were so stunned that they asked for the camera to cut away from Malarchuk.
The scene was shocking to everyone at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. Three players vomited on the ice, and some fans fainted and even had heart attacks.
The skate damaged Malarchuk's internal carotid artery, which supplies blood to the brain. He needed 300 stitches to fix the wound, but miraculously, he returned to action within two weeks.
After Malarchuk left the NHL, he dealt with obsessive compulsive disorder and alcoholism, as well as nightmares from the accident. However, he managed to turn his life around and was recently hired as the Flames' goaltending coach.