The Most Tragically Cut Short Careers in NHL History

Matthew FairburnCorrespondent ISeptember 12, 2011

The Most Tragically Cut Short Careers in NHL History

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    Sidney Crosby recently announced that he will not be ready to start the season but ensured the press that the chances of him losing his career to this injury are very unlikely. However, the possibility alone is enough to bring up the painful memories of great NHL careers derailed by various injuries.

    Hockey is an undeniably violent sport. Players are bigger, skating faster than they ever have, and as a result hitting harder. The injuries that result, meanwhile, are far from new to the game.

    Let's take a look at some of the great careers that could have been even better had injuries not entered the equation.

Vladimir Konstantinov

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    Vladimir Konstantinov was a key part of the Detroit Red Wings' 1997 Stanley Cup team, which was one of the most impressive in history. The 1997 playoffs were his coming out party, and at age 30, it appeared that Konstantinov was hitting his prime as a contributor for Detroit.

    However, in a celebration after that Stanley Cup win, Konstantinov was involved in an accident when he and a teammate, who had both been drinking, hired a driver to bring them home. The three of them hit a tree when the driver lost control of the vehicle. Konstantinov suffered brain damage and paralysis as a result of the crash and never played again.

Pavel Bure

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    Head injuries dominate the NHL injury report, but Pavel Bure fell victim to chronic knee problems. Known for his speed and goal scoring ability, Bure managed over 50 goals in five seasons but then managed more than 30 only once more in his entire career.

    Bure's sporadic production probably had something to do with the fact that Bure played only three 80-game seasons. His knees forced him to retire at age 32.

Peter Forsberg

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    Peter Forsberg could not stay healthy. The Swedish superstar suited up for every regular season game only once in his entire career. Looking at his career numbers, it's absolutely astounding that Forsberg battled his injuries and did what he did.

    Forsberg tried to battle through one more season but instead chose to retire last season.

Paul Kariya

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    Paul Kariya was insanely productive while healthy during his 16-year NHL career. Kariya, along with Teemu Selanne, put the Mighty Ducks on the map. It's a shame that he wasn't still with the team when they eventually won the Stanley Cup in 2007. 

    Unfortunately, Kariya's small stature made him prone to injuries. Concussions were Kariya's biggest problem and eventually forced him to retire at age 35.

Pat LaFontaine

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    Pat LaFontaine is vastly underrated in most hockey circles. He finished his career with 1,013 points in 865 games, including a 148-point season with the Buffalo Sabres back in the early '90s.

    LaFontaine played 15 NHL seasons, but played 22 or fewer games four times. Concussion forced his retirement at the early age of 33.

Cam Neely

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    Cam Neely played a bruising style for the Boston Bruins. He was the best power forward the NHL has ever seen and had the ability to put up outstanding offensive numbers to go with his punishing two way play.

    However, Neely had knee and hip injuries that sent his career into flux. His prolific career came to an end at just 31 years. 

Eric Lindros

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    Eric Lindros is the most unfortunate case of talent gone to waste due to injury. The sky was the limit when the Flyers traded everything but the kitchen sink to acquire Eric Lindros, but an outrageous amount of concussions limited his impact on the organization.

    Lindros averaged more than a point per game during his NHL career, but the 6'4'' center never managed to play 82 games in a single season.  

Mike Bossy

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    Mike Bossy's 1,126 points are jaw-dropping when one considers the fact that the Islanders' legend played in just over 750 career games. Lucky for the Islanders, Bossy was dominant in the games that he did play, leading the team to four Stanley Cup Championships in the '80s.

    Bossy had a terrible back problem towards the end of the career that forced his early retirement and left Islanders' fans wondering what could have been.

Mario Lemieux

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    Just imagine the debate that would still rage on if Mario Lemieux had stayed healthy for his entire NHL career. Plenty of folks think that Lemieux would have broken some of Wayne Gretzky's record had he stayed off of the injury report.

    His on-ice accomplishments speak for themselves. Over 1,700 career points in less than 1,000 career games is a ridiculous pace. Lemieux did all of that suffering through severe back issues and overcoming Hodgkin's lymphoma. Lemieux retired twice in his career. His second and final retirement was a result of his irregular heartbeat. The guy couldn't catch a break.

Bobby Orr

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    Bobby Orr is a legend. Considered by some to be the best player in the history of the league, Orr reinvented the defenseman position with his willingness to get involved and dominate on the offensive rush.

    It's tragic that the hockey world was only graced with 12 seasons of Orr's outstanding play. The greatest player to ever wear a Bruins' sweater had horrible knees. Perhaps given today's technology, Bobby Orr's knees could have been repaired and his career would have been salvageable.

    But like most players on this list, Orr is left to wonder "what if?"