Searching through hundreds of NHL injuries, I have narrowed down to what I believe are 50 gruesome NHL injuries that many fans remember. This isn’t a comprehensive list and I know I have probably missed many since every player suffers at least one injury big/small in their career but I tried to get what I feel are some of the worst and most memorable.
*Please note, the numbers 1-50, do not correspond with the severity of the injury. The numbers are simply there to help keep some organization to my list. All injuries that made the list are top injuries and cannot be compared to any others.”
1) Bill Masterton: He was severely injured on January 13th, 1968. He was skating with the puck and two Oakland Seals players checked him as he fell backwards and smashed his head on the ice. He was not wearing a helmet and the force of the impact caused him to bleed from his ears, nose and mouth. He later slipped into a coma and died 30 hours later. Masterton will always be known for being the first player to die directly due to an on-ice injury. Let’s hope he is also the last. The league created a trophy that is still being awarded to players in honour of his career.
2) Trent McCleary: On January 29th, 2000 against the Philadelphia Flyers, Trent McCleary fell to the ice in order to block a slap shot from Chris Therien. The slap shot hit him in the throat. He had trouble breathing as he skated to the bench and then collapsed. In the hallway of the then Molson Centre, medics had to figure out a way to make an air passage way to help him breathe. When they had him in stable condition, he was rushed to the hospital and had emergency surgery done (in his hockey gear, including skates). He suffered from a ruptured larynx and a collapsed lung. The severity of this injury almost killed McCleary. Doctors said, it was closest to death you can get before dying. It did end his seven year career after he had trouble catching his breath during his comeback attempt.
3) Clint Malarchuk: In 1989 Malarchuk had his jugular vein accidentally sliced open when Steve Tuttle’s skate slashed Malarchuk’s neck. He had massive blood loss and quick thinking of team trainers and doctors to close the artery likely saved his life. Malarchuk was taken to the hospital once he was stabilized where doctors spent over 90 minutes, getting about 300 stitches. Unfortunately this was not the only scary skate blade induced neck injury that we have seen… leading us to our fourth injury,
4) Richard Zednik: On February 10th, 2008, the Florida Panthers player accidentally got kicked in the neck by his own teammate. The blade sliced Zednik’s external carotid artery. He skated off the ice and was attended to by medics in the hallway. The league was contemplating on postponing the game, but they decided not too when it was announced that he was in stable condition on his way to the hospital. He was out for the remainder of the season.
5) Ted Green: During the exhibition game on September 21, 1969 he had a stick fight with the Blues Wayne Maki. He got struck in the head with the stick and fractured his skull along with suffering brain damage. He missed the rest of the season, but returned the following season and played another ten years.
6) Joffrey Lupul: He suffered a spinal cord contusion after a collision with his teammate in January 2008. In 2009 he underwent back surgery and a severe infection meant that he missed twelve months of playing, half one season and half of the next. Lupul missed a huge amount of time due to his injuries but still managed to fully recover and come back to be an important player for the Leafs today.
7) Cam Neely: During a Conference Finals game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ulf Samuelsson collided with Neely in what was a knee-on-knee illegal check. Neely was injured and developed Myositis Ossificans and while he would try to come back, he was never quite the same. The hit effectively ended his NHL career. Neely was one of the best players in the league at the time, and the questions of what could have become of his career without this hit will never be answered.
8) Saku Koivu: While playing with the Habs in the playoffs in April of 2006. Koivu’s eye came in contact with Justin Williams’ stick. After all the blood and swelling, Koivu needed surgery to repair a detached retina, and he was not even ready to start the following season on time. The eye injury was considered quite severe and there was talk he may have suffered partial blindness on the play.
9) Nathan Horton: During a Stanley Cup Finals game on June 7, 2011, with the Vancouver Cannucks, Nathan Horton was hit in the head by Aaron Rome. He laid motionless on the ice for several minutes and received a severe concussion. He did not play the rest of the series and the season after he struggled to come back. In January, seven months later he received another concussion and was out for the rest of the season. He came back for the shortened season. While concussions happen far too often in the NHL, this hit is highlighted for the fact that it came as a result of an illegal hit in the Stanley Cup Finals and garnered the attention of the hockey world.
10) Ryan Johnson: On October 27th, 2009, the Canucks player was skating around Nicklas Lidstrom and accidentally slid neck first into the boards heavily. He was taken off the ice in a stretcher and suffered a concussion. He was only out for five games. While it was a short term injury, it looked a lot worse. Every player looses their edge and falls, but the way he crashed into the boards was something that just doesn’t happen every day. It could happen to anybody and he was lucky that he was only out for five games.
11) Jiri Fischer: Fischer is my first exception to the injury list. It was not really an injury but the situation was worth making the list. During the game against Nashville Predators, the Red Wings player collapsed and went into cardiac arrest on the bench. He was unconscious for a couple of minutes and they had to do CPR and use a defibrillator to get his heart working again. The game was postponed, and when it was rescheduled they kept the original score (1-0) and played the full 60 minutes. He never played another game..
12) Sam Gagner: During the preseason game on September 21st 2013, Cannucks forward Zack Kassian gave Gagner a high stick which broke Gagner’s jaw. Gagner was out indefinitely while Kassian got a long suspension which he was only eligible to come back and play on the 12th of October. Gagner is expected to be back in the lineup sometime in November. Gagner suffered a broken jaw and five broken teeth on the play. The NHL said it was careless high sticking that should have been avoided.
13) Blake Geoffrion: He was a newcomer that very well could have started in the NHL for the 2012-13 season, had the league not been locked out. Instead, he found himself retiring that same year. While the lockout was ongoing Geoffrion was playing for the American Hockey League Hamilton Bulldogs where he was hip-checked by Jean Phillip Côté. As he fell to the ice, Geoffrion’s head struck Cote’s skate. Geoffrion was rushed to the hospital where he had emergency surgery to fix a depressed skull fracture. Due to complications in the recovery, Geoffrion was forced to retire at just 25 years of age. Scary to think, this injury may or may not have happened if the lockout did not happen.
14) George Parros: He was out all summer (2013) with a shoulder injury. He got cleared the day before opening night, to start opening night with his new team; the Montreal Canadiens, against the Toronto Maple Leafs. On his second fight of the night with Colton Orr, Orr slipped and Parros tripped over Orr knocking himself out. He was taken off in a stretcher. He had no broken bones but suffered a concussion. He is expected to make a full recovery and is already practicing with teammates.
15) Marc Savard: March 7th, 2010, the Bruins player received a grade 2 concussion. He was hit by the Penguins player Matt Cooke while in Pittsburgh. He was sent to hospital, and stayed overnight to monitor his symptoms. On January 23rd, 2011, not even a year later he suffered his second concussion on a hit by Matt Hunwick from the Colorado Avalanche. Since then, he has not played a game and probably never will.
16) Mikael Renberg: In 1997, his face got cut by Randy Cunneyworth’s of the Ottawa Senators’ skate. The visor protected the eye but not the rest of the face. He had over 200 stitches and was able to return with the team a couple of days later. While this is a huge amount of stitches, it shows that the injuries that can look really bad, can also be one of the easiest to come back from if the player is lucky and the damage is not to a critical area.
17) Sidney Crosby: During a game in May 2013, against the New York Islanders. The Penguins superstar received a slap shot puck to the face and received a broken jaw while missing some teeth. He had surgery, wasn’t allowed to eat solids for a while and it took him a couple of weeks to return. This injury was a freak accident. Even worse when it came from his own teammate.
18) Lars Eller: On May 2nd 2013, during the first playoff game against the Ottawa Senators, the Habs forward received a hit from Eric Gryba. He was unconscious and carried off the ice in a stretcher. He suffered dental and facial fractures, along with a concussion. This was another foul hit, that possibly started the trend for the 2013-2014 season of head hits. While the Sens coach says it was a bad pass from Raphael Diaz, his player could have avoided the hit all together.
19) Taylor Hall: During a warmup against the Columbus Blue Jackets, left winger Taylor Hall was not wearing a helmet and he slipped and slid into his teammates skate. It sliced his head near his eye and required him to get 30 stitches. At all times hockey players should wear a helmet when they are on the ice. Saying this I mean, in practice or during a game. You never know what could happen and this injury caused the NHL to question if wearing helmets should be mandatory during pre-game warmup.
20) Ondrej Pavelec: Pavelec is my second exception. When he was in nets for the Thrashers during a game on October 8th, 2010 against the Washington Capitals he collapsed on the ice and lost consciousness. He regained consciousness at the hospital and wanted to know who won the game (Thrashers did). From the fainting spell, he ended up getting a concussion but was able to return a short while later.
21) Todd Fedoruk: He had three notable facial injuries, and I wasn’t sure which one to put so in general I will talk about all three and using facial injury in general as one of my top 50 worst injuries. November 11, 2003 he fought Eric Cairns and received a broken orbital bone. On October 24th, 2006 Derek Boogaard punched him and falling to the ice caused his cheek bone to shatter. His final notable injury was against Colton Orr. Orr punched Fedoruk out cold. Though these injuries happened on the ice, they weren’t caused by a foul play (like a hit). It was more or less just a sign for Fedoruk to stop fighting. The one that originally made the list was the shattered cheekbone but all seemed to fit in under his name.
22) Steve Moore: March 8th, 2004, after an ongoing battle between Vancouver and Colorado, Todd Bertuzzi went after Moore for a cheap shot weeks earlier on teammate Markus Naslund and Moore was punched behind the head, which knocked him out and all the teammates fell on top of him in a brawl. The altercation caused three fractured neck vertebra, facial cuts and a concussion. This is on my list because of the history between the two teams. It should never have happened. Moore did not want to fight and so he was caught by surprise, Bertuzzi was suspended indefinitely for that hit.
23) Ryan Kesler: Kesler got injured many times, but the one I am using is not so much for the injury itself but it was for matching the longest NHL suspension. In his forth season with the Canucks, Kesler was cross checked in the face by Jesse Boulerice. For the hit Kesler had a sore jaw and Boulerice got a twenty-five game suspension.
24) Darcy Tucker: On October 23rd, 2009, Darcy Tucker was taken off the ice and to hospital after taking a hit from Hurricanes Tuomo Ruutu. Tucker received a concussion on that play. At first he did lose consciousness but he did regain it before getting to the hospital. It was an unfortunate event. Again, one of a any hits that happen each year in the NHL. It should have been avoided. It looked bad on Ruutu, because of his history.
25) Rob DiMaio: In 2006, during a preseason game with the Montreal Canadiens, DiMaio received a hit by Guillaume Latendress that resulted in a concussion. The concussion resulted in the end to his hockey career.
Check back later for part two, and 25 more gruesome NHL injuries. While some may or may not agree with the injuries but I feel these are some of the worst for injury reasons, consequences and punishments.
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