The hockey world openly shed a tear last month following the death of former National Hockey League (NHL) defenceman Steve Montador who was found dead in his Mississauga home. No cause of death is yet known though police think no foul play was involved.
His death, like all those who pass before their time, hangs like a memento mori over all our heads. As fans it is easy to overlook the fact that those who play the game for our entertainment are our mortal equals. When discussing the sport, we often treat the players like inanimate objects, flippantly writing off a player's entire existence if they don't perform well. However, when an athlete unexpectedly passes, it tends to put into focus how human they all are.
Many who die before their time in the hockey world are victims to fast cars and alcohol, possibly believing the sense of immortality that comes with fame. Others, especially as they age through the game and their bodies degrade under years of constant abuse, find ways to alleviate the pain, ways to continue to play. Self medicating too often comes with too steep a cost.
Some are victims of their time, passing either from fighting in wars or as in the case of Joe Hall from the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918.
Whether a fan of a particular player or not, we should take a moment, however small as it may be, just to acknowledge the passings of those who died during their careers. In doing so, one gains sympathy for players like Dany Heatley and Ron Stewart who have to live with the weight of their actions. And to see the players who passed not simply as hockey players, but as human beings, as flawed, driven, irresponsible as the rest of us.
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10 Joe Hall - Apr. 5, 1919
The world was hit hard between 1918 and 1919 by the Spanish influenza virus that would end up taking an estimated 100 million lives worldwide, including Joseph Henry "Bad Joe" Hall of the Montreal Canadiens.
It was during the 1919 Stanley Cup final between the NHL's Montreal Canadiens and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association's Seattle Metropolitans that the hockey world was most affected by this disease. The two teams had already played five games with each taking two games apiece and tying game five when several players of each franchise had to be hospitalized, though Montreal was hit the worst.
George Kennedy, manager of the Canadiens, tried to forfeit the Cup, but Pete Muldoon, manager and coach of Seattle, declined. It would become the only playoff in NHL history that the Stanley Cup would not be awarded.
On April 5, 1919, five days after the final was cancelled, Hall would succumb to pneumonia. He was posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.
He was 37 years old.
9 Bill Barilko - Aug. 26, 1951
During Bill Barilko's short NHL career he would capture four Stanley Cups with the Toronto Maple Leafs. His Cup-winning goal against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5 of the 1951 Stanley Cup Final would be his last.
On August 26, 1951, Barilko left for a fishing trip in Seal River, Quebec, on a small floatplane with friend and pilot Henry Hudson. Neither were ever seen alive again. For 11 years they were presumed missing until June 6, 1962 when the wreckage of their plane was spotted 56 kilometers off course. The crash was deemed to have been caused by pilot inexperience, an overloaded plane and inclement weather. He was 24.
His death would usher in what is now referred to as "The Lost Years" following the Leafs dynasty of the decade previous. Coincidentally, the next time the Leafs would win the Cup would be 1962, the year Barliko's body was found.
8 Bill Masterton - Jan. 15, 1968
Bill Masterton is still the only player in NHL history to have died specifically from injuries that incurred during play.
In a game between the Oakland Seals and the Minnesota North Stars, Masterton was hit hard by two Seals defenders which caused him to fall backward and hit his head on the ice. He lost consciousness and bled profusely from his nose, ears and mouth.
According to reports, many believed that Masterton had been suffering from a brain hemorrhage before his fatal hit which had caused him to have blacked out several times before.
Some accounts say that Masterton briefly awoke following the hit only to utter the words "Never again, never again."
He would pass away two days later, surrounded by his family.
His death would spark a heated debate within the league over whether or not to make helmets mandatory throughout the league. The league would also create the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 1968, which is handed out annually to the most sportsmanlike and dedicated player in the league.
He was 29 years old.
7 Terry Sawchuk - May 31, 1970
In his own words, the incident that would lead to the death of Terry Sawchuk, one of the greatest goalies to ever live, "was just a fluke."
It is now believed that the 40-year-old Sawchuk suffered from depression, which would account for his dramatic shifts in behaviour. After a decade of declining play that saw him with four teams (and twice with the Detroit Red Wings) it looked like Sawchuk was on the verge of retiring after only playing eight games for the New York Rangers during the 1969-70 campaign.
However, he never made it pass that offseason.
While on vacation with teammate Ron Stewart, the two got into a physical altercation over money owed for the house they had rented together. Sawchuk got the worst of it, resulting in internal injuries requiring several surgeries.
Sawchuk would never recover and passed away on May 31, 1970.
Stewart was exonerated before the court, as Sawchuk's death was deemed accidental.
6 Tim Horton - Feb. 24, 1974
Most know of the name Tim Horton in connection to the doughnut/coffee shop chain that bears his name. However few outside the hockey world know that he was a stalwart blueliner, since following his controversial death in 1974 the company permanently severed its connection to the hockey player.
After a loss to his former team the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 44-year-old Buffalo Sabre was driving back south of the border in a De Tomaso Pantera, which was given to him before that season by Sabres' general manager Punch Imlach as an incentive to stick it out with them for one more season.
According to reports Horton had played that game battling jaw and ankle injuries, and on the drive back to Buffalo he had been self medicating with alcohol.
In the early morning hours of February 24 on Ontario Street in St. Catharines, Ontario near the Buffalo border, Horton lost control of the white car, crashing into the median causing the car to flip several times ejecting him 200 feet from the car. His blood alcohol was twice the legal limit and there have been conflicting reports that there were prescription drugs in his system, though there were several bottles found in the car along with a half-empty bottle of vodka.
Horton was pronounced dead at the hospital.
5 Pelle Lindbergh - Nov. 11, 1985
At the time of his death Pelle Lindbergh was one of the most promising goalies in hockey having already won bronze in the Olympics with Sweden and the Vezina the season before his car crash.
His death was caused by the same thing so many of the young and rich fall to: a love of fast cars and alcohol.
It was a relaxing night for Lindbergh as he was sitting backup. Following the game the players hit up a Bennigan's restaurant where according to police he had at least two beers and a shot of peppermint schnapps. From there the team moved to a bar at the Flyers' former practice arena, the Coliseum in Voorhees, New Jersey, where the team continued to drink until 5:30 in the morning.
When leaving, Lindbergh along with two friends got into his Porsche 930 Turbo. With a blood alcohol level of .24, over twice New Jersey's legal limit at the time, he crashed his car into the brick wall of an elementary school. He was effectively killed by the crash but kept on life support until his father could arrive from Sweden. The other two passengers were injured, but survived.
That year, Lindbergh became the first and only player to be posthumously selected to the All-Star Game. Since his death no player in the Philadelphia Flyers organization has donned his no.31.
He was 26 years old.
4 Yanick Dupre - Aug. 16, 1997
There is no knowing what kind of player Yanick Dupre could have been. Over three seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, Dupre only played 35 games before passing away after a 16-month battle against leukemia.
Diagnosed with cancer in April 1996, Dupre would not play for either the Flyers or their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate team, the Hershey Bears, that 1996-97 season. However that fall, his cancer was in remission and there was talk that he might start training again the coming offseason.
That would never come to be as in May of 1997, his cancer returned. He would undergo a bone marrow transplant in June. Unfortunately it didn't work, and Dupre would pass away that August.
In Dupre's honour, the AHL awards the Yanick Dupre Memorail Award to the player who best services his community.
He was 24 years old.
3 Steve Chiasson - May 3, 1999
The 32-year-old Steve Chiasson was a 14-year veteran defenceman of the Carolina Hurricanes when his life was cut short due to drunk driving.
Already a sour evening, the 'Canes had just returned to Carolina after having been eliminated that night from the playoffs by the Boston Bruins. From the airport the team went to Gary Roberts's house, another veteran for Carolina. After several hours, Chiasson decided to leave. According to reports, several players at the party tried to dissuade him from driving. Chiasson persisted saying he lived close by.
While driving, Chiasson's pickup veered off the road and was then quickly righted in the lane which caused it to flip. He was flung from the car.
Police said speed along with alcohol (Chiasson was three times over the legal limit) played a role in the crash.
2 Dan Snyder - Oct. 5, 2003
A young Atlanta Thrashers franchise, with much to look forward to that 2003-04 season, was mired in sadness and controversy following the death of 25-year-old centre Dan Snyder.
Following a meet-and-greet with season-ticket holders, burgeoning NHL superstar Dany Heatley was driving Snyder to his house, when he lost control of his Ferrari going 80 mph in a 35 zone and crashed into a brick pillar and a wire fence, splitting the car in two. Snyder was flung from the car, fracturing his skull. Heatley was seriously injured, but would survive.
Six days after the accident Snyder would die and Heatley would be charged with vehicular homicide. Heatley pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide (driving too fast for conditions, failure to maintain a lane and speeding) and was sentenced to three years probation. He would never again be the hockey player he was before.
The Tragically Hip would write the song "Heaven is a better place today," in Snyder's honour.
He was 25 years old.
1 Derek Boogaard -- May 13, 2011
The death of Derek Boogaard may tarnish the NHL until it finally does away with fighting.
An enforcer with the Minnesota Wild and then the New York Rangers, Boogaard died from overdosing on a mixture of alcohol and OxiContin after a night of drinking. However, following his death he was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a degenerative brain disease caused by multiple concussions.
According to reports, his level of CTE was so advanced that if he lived he would have experienced early onset dementia. It is believed that the excess use of alcohol and prescription medicine was how Boogaard was coping with his constant pain incurred from years of fighting.
He was 28 years old.
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