November 05, 2012

Hockey's Worst Injuries

When a sport requires athletes to strap knives to their feet and to skate around on ice trying to hit a disc of vulcanized rubber (that can reach speeds of over 100 mph when struck) all the while avoiding being pounded by the opposing team, it's no wonder there is the occasional injury. In fact, I'm surprised there aren't more injuries and deaths in the sport. Watching replays of the following injuries may be enough to make you lock yourself in your room to play party bingo where you're safe from everything but carpal tunnel syndrome.

It's one thing to injure yourself or to be hit by the opposing team but it's quite another to be attacked by your fellow teammate. Tomas Vokoun, goaltender for the Florida Panthers, was taken off guard during a game against the Atlanta Thrashers on November 30, 2009. Vokoun's teammate, Keith Ballard, was upset that Vokoun had just given up a goal to Thrasher player Ilya Kovalchuck and decided to take out his frustration on the goal post with his hockey stick. Unfortunately, Ballard missed the goal post and struck Vokoun in the head and sending him to the hospital for an ear laceration instead. ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melorse commented on the incident, calling it, “maybe the stupidest thing I've seen in my life.”

Ballard's bashing (try saying that five times fast) of Tomas Vokoun was at least an accident, a remarkably stupid accident, but an accident nonetheless. The same can't be said for Marty McSorley when he slashed Donald Brashear in the head. The incident happened during the Vancouver-Boston game on February 21, 2000. McSorley had tried multiple times to try and start a fight between him and Brashear but failed. McSorley then proceeded to slash Brashear with a two-handed strike to the head. Brashear suffered a grade 3 concussion and McSorley received an indefinite suspension and was charged with assault with a weapon.

Swedish born Anders Borje Salming brought an entirely new meaning to the phrase, “taking it to the face.” On November 26, 1986, Salming was a defenceman for the Toronto Maple Leafs and they were playing against the Red Wings in Detroit. Late in the game Salming was knocked down in front of the Leafs net and, while down, was hit in the face with Gerad Gallant's (of the Detroit Red Wings) skate blade. Salming's face was sliced so bad it required over 200 stitches. In 1989, just three short years later, Salming would be signed as a free agent with the Red Wings. I guess he must be a forgiving type of guy...

Injuries to the head and face are bad enough but few things are as cringe-worthy as taking a skate to the throat. Richard Zednik and Clint Malarchuk both share this dubious honor. Zednik was playing for the Florida Panthers in 2008 against the Buffalo Sabres. During the game, Zednik's teammate, Olli Jokinen, tripped and cut open Zednik's external carotid artery with his right skate. Zednik, with the help of medical personnel in the arena and emergency medical personal, survived the injury and underwent surgery.

Malarchuck received his injury while playing for the Buffalo Sabres against the St. Louis Blues on March 22, 1989. Steve Tuttle was chasing the puck when his skate caught Malarchuck on the neck and severed his internal carotid artery. Luckily for Malarchuck, the Sabres trainer, Jim Pizzutelli, was a former army medic who served in Vietnam. Pizzuetelli put his experience in good use and saved Malarchuck's life. 

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