What Gary Bettman Should Learn from Richard Zednik's Injury

Travis LoftisCorrespondent IFebruary 10, 2008

Richard Zednik will likely go down in history as a Florida Panther. 

Unless he is traded to another team and single-handedly wins them a Stanley Cup, his blood-soaked away Panther whites are what people will always remember him in.

Caps fans will likely remember Zednik as that young rookie in the 1997-98 season, who looked like Peter Bondra's little brother. Retooling, the Caps sent him off for Dainius Zubrus. Later, they'd sign him again, only to trade him to the New York Islanders.  Zednik would then sign with the Panthers this recent offseason.

Zednik has been very unlucky to say the least. The flu always seems to hit him, and he has taken some vicious checks that ended in some bad injuries.

Nothing had been as bad as what happened last night. 

It can't get much worse, either. That young rookie face elated after scoring has been replaced by the look of fear of a 32-year old man clutching his throat in fear, sprinting off the ice.

Thankfully, at time of this being written, Zednik is in stable condition after what is being called a successful surgery.

However, if there's one town with a doctor experienced with this injury, it's Buffalo.

Eighteen years ago, on March 22nd, in the very same town, Clint Malarchuk went down to block a shot, while playing goal for the Buffalo Sabres. What happened next was this writer's first image of hockey—a grown man writhing on the ice, spurting blood in all directions from his neck.

Tragically, an attacking player had been tripped. His skates came up and Malarchuk's throat was cut open.

A night in the hospital, 300-plus stitches later, and Malarchuk was released. Two weeks later, he was playing again.

Zednik has an advantage Malarchuk did not. Malarchuk went down, and stayed down.  Trainers came to him. Zednik skated immediately to the bench, where pressure was immediately applied.

Did this make the difference in life and death? Maybe not. Did it make the difference between playing again and not? More likely.

Blood loss can lead rapidly to the brain not receiving needed oxygen. This can lead to brain damage and in many cases, exsanguination, or death by blood loss.  In a more recent case, the Sean Taylor tragedy, this is exactly what occurred.

Zednik and Malarchuk had one more thing in common—they were at the same point before the injury Washington Capitals.  Both were only in DC for their last stints there for a year before signing elsewhere.

The biggest shame in this nightmare is that the NHL had previously failed to see the need for throat guards for all players. The primary leagues up until the NHL do require them. Is it going to take an on-ice fatality, another Bill Masterton or a Bengt Aakerblom (Sweden), to get the NHL to take action?

Roberto Luongo has taken a slapshot to the throat.  Fortunately he was okay, but what about the defensemen who don't wear even a visor, and only sport a loose fitting helmet?

Gary Bettman, it's time to wise up—grandfather in visors and throat guards, for all players.

If players complain, show them clips of this, Malarchuk, Aakerblom, and Luongo until they stop. The NFL went from no helmets, to leather helmets, to barred helmets to protect the entire face. Maybe it's time the NHL followed suit.

Besides, if a Crosby or Ovechkin were to be lying dead on the ice from a skate to the throat, the NHL would die too. If a 10-year-old has to wear one in youth hockey, then why is it a bad idea to wear one at the professional level?