Having a career as a professional hockey player isn't an easy task. It takes years of hard work and dedication just have a chance to play the sport for a living. While every path to the NHL is different, there are certainly a few players who have it more difficult than others. Some players have to overcome things such as medical disorders, disabilities, and handicaps on their way to making it to the professional ranks. There is a good chance you didn't even know some of the players on this list suffered from such things. This is because the players refuse to use their medical problem as an excuse. They instead they use their problems as motivation to further their careers.
While it's true that some players have gone on to have great careers while overcoming some terrible and painful medical conditions, that's sadly not always the case. Unfortunately for some players in the past, their disorders have got the best of them and they had no choice but to end their careers.
Without further ado, here are 15 hockey players you didn't know suffered from medical disorders.
15 Jeff Hackett - Vertigo
Jeff Hackett had a very underrated NHL career. The goaltender played 500 NHL games and posted some impressive numbers throughout his career. He was a starting goalie for both the Chicago Blackhawks and the Montreal Canadiens. He seemed to thrive playing in a high-pressure hockey market like Montreal. In his first season with the team, he posted a more than solid 2.40 GAA and a .914 save percentage.
Hackett was having another solid year in 2003-04 with the Philadelphia Flyers when not only was his season cut short, but his entire career too. Hackett was suffering from a severe case of vertigo, which causes a person to go into dizzy spells. While some players who suffered from vertigo have managed to get over it, Hackett had to retire because of it.
14 Shayne Corson - Colitis
Shayne Corson was a gritty power forward who spent the majority of his career playing for Canadian teams. He is perhaps best known for his 12 seasons spent with the Montreal Canadiens. While Corson never managed to get his name engraved on the Stanley Cup, he was a three-time NHL All-Star, as well as a member of team Canada at the 1998 Olympics.
13 Carl Soderberg - Blind in One Eye
Carl Soderberg was taken by the St.Louis Blues in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. However, he didn't make it to the NHL until almost a decade later when he joined the Boston Bruins in 2013. Since then, he has become a very solid NHL player. In 2015-16 he had a career year with the Colorado Avalanche when he recorded a career-high 51 points.
Soderberg's dream of making the NHL almost never happened. In 2007 while playing hockey in Sweden he took a high stick to his eye, which caused his retina to detach. The one positive thing to come out of the incident is that Soderberg now believes he can hear better than anybody on the ice, mostly because he has too. It took him a few years to get used to playing with just one eye, but now he doesn't even think about it.
12 Linus Söderström - Aspergers
The name Linus Söderström might not ring a bell to you, but there is good chance you will know who he is very soon. Söderström is a goaltending prospect for the New York Islanders. He had his coming out party while playing for Sweden at the 2016 World Junior Hockey Championships, as he was named the best goaltender of the tournament.
It's looking more and more like Söderström has a bright future in the NHL. He has developed into a great goalie despite being diagnosed with Aspergers at the age of seven. Aspergers is a brain disorder that causes a person to have difficulty in social interactions, speech, and sometimes motor movements. While Söderström was bullied about his behavior growing up, he stated that he would not have been the same goalie or person if it wasn't for his syndrome.
11 Jim Kyte - Deaf
Jim Kyte was a big hulking defenseman who was best known for playing six-plus seasons with the Winnipeg Jets during the 1980s. He would play nearly 600 games in his NHL career while amassing a hefty 1342 penalty minutes. Kyte accomplished this all while overcoming a significant hearing disability.
Kyte was just three years old when he diagnosed as being deaf. In fact, all four his brothers would turn out to be deaf as well. Since he wasn't able to hear on the ice, Kyte would try and master every team's system. This was so he would know exactly where everyone was supposed to be on the ice. He also counted players in the offensive zone so that he knew that nobody had snuck past him. While it was definitely more work for Kyte to play in the NHL compared to other players, you can bet he has no regrets about it.
10 Jacques Demers - Illiterate
While Jacques Demers never actually played professional hockey, his story is too good not to be included on this list. While Demers never played hockey for a living, he did coach it for a living. He had a coaching career that lasted over twenty years, famously winning back to back coach of the year awards while with the St.Louis Blues in the late 1980's. In 1993, Demers was the head coach of Stanley Cup winning Montreal Canadiens.
While being the only NHL coach in history to win back to back Jack Adams awards is impressive, it is even more impressive considering he is illiterate. In a 2005 biography about Demers, it was revealed that his troubled childhood led to his illiteracy. It's incredible that he was able to have such a successful coaching career without the ability to read or write.
9 Bryan Bickell - Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis first came to the forefront of the hockey world when former Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding was diagnosed with the debilitating disease. Although Harding managed to play through MS for a few seasons, it ultimately ended the promising goaltender's career.
Just recently NHL veteran Bryan Bickell was diagnosed with the same chronic disease. Although the veteran of nearly 400 NHL games has taken some time off to battle the disease that attacks the body's central nervous system, he's not letting it take his career away from him. He knows that once his playing days are over he will have to deal with his sickness, but until that day comes he is trying not to think about it.
8 Tom Poti - Extreme Allergies
Tom Poti had a solid NHL career, playing for four different teams over a 13 season career. In total, Poti played over 800 games in his NHL career, and he did it all while he suffered from extreme allergies. Poti's allergies were so bad that when he went to see an allergist, he almost died from the testing.
The things that Poti are allergic to include nuts, chocolate, MSG, spices, and sauces. While this may not seem like a big deal, eating a well-balanced diet is an essential part of what it takes to be a professional athlete. For every NHL team that Poti played for there were two separate meals that had to be made, one for Poti and one for everyone else. To make it even more difficult for Poti, he also suffers from asthma. Despite all these problems, Poti was still able to have more than respectable NHL career.
7 Kevin Dineen - Crohn's Disease
Kevin Dineen had incredible nineteen season NHL career. He is best known for his time spent with the Hartford Whalers where he scored forty-plus goals in two different seasons with the team. While Dineen played almost 1200 games during his NHL career, it was almost over before it barely started.
Just two years into his NHL career, Dineen was on vacation when he started suffering from severe stomach pain. He would later be diagnosed with Crohn's disease, which is a debilitating disease that affects the small intestine. Dineen had many hospitals stays during his NHL career because if Crohn's, but he never let it get the best of him.
6 Willie O'Ree - Blind in One Eye
Willie O'Ree became the first black player to ever appear in an NHL game when he suited up for the Boston Bruins in 1958. While it's a well-known fact that he broke the color barrier in hockey, people often forget that he had another obstacle to get over before he made it to the NHL. Two years before he made it to the big leagues, O'Ree lost all sight in one of his eyes when he was struck by a puck in a minor league game.
The crazy part about O'Ree being blind in one eye is that for the longest time he never told anybody about it. O'Ree didn't tell anybody for a good reason. During the era that he played in, there was a rule that you had to have a certain percentage of vision in both eyes in order to play. Luckily for O'Ree he never had to take eye exam during his entire 21 professional seasons.
5 Brent Sopel - Dyslexic
While Brent Sopel did put up some solid offensive seasons as an NHL defenseman, he was better known as a defensive player. During his 18 professional seasons, he showed he wasn't afraid of going into the dirty areas, and there wasn't a shot he wouldn't block. Sopel finished his NHL career with over 600 games played and he was able to lift the Stanley Cup as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.
Throughout his entire life, Sopel has battled with dyslexia. Instead of using it as an excuse, Sopel has turned his learning disability into a positive. He figures if he didn't have to go through life battling dyslexia he wouldn't be the same person is today. Now that his playing career is over, Sopel has gone back to school in order to try and tackle his dyslexia.
4 Steve Downie - Deaf in One Ear
Throughout his entire hockey career, Steve Downie was often the center of the conversation. His name was brought up mostly because of his many dirty hits he has laid out during his career. While it's easy to see why most people might hate him, there is actually a good reason why Downie deserves some praise. He managed to make all the way to the NHL despite being completely deaf in his right ear.
When Steve Downie was just 11 years old, he lost his hearing due to a rare disorder known as otosclerosis. Being able to hear your teammates on the ice is a crucial part of playing hockey, but Downie managed to overcome that by wearing a hearing aid on the ice. A game Downie was involved in actually had to be momentarily stopped because he had lost his hearing aid in a scuffle with another player.
3 Howie Harvey - Allergic to Equipment
Howie Harvey was the younger brother of legendary Montreal Canadiens defenseman Doug Harvey. The younger Harvey was a highly touted goaltending prospect for the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was looking like he had a bright future in the NHL after helping the St. Michael's College Majors win the 1947 Memorial Cup. However, just two years later he would be forced to quit the game of hockey altogether.
The story about why Harvey retired has changed throughout the years. There was a famous story that he quit in the middle of practice after seeing fellow goaltender Baz Bastien lose his eyeball after taking a puck to the face. While the story of Bastien losing his eyeball was true, it wasn't the reason Harvey decided to hang up his skates. The actual reason Harvey couldn't play anymore was that he was allergic to his own equipment. Following every game he played, his hands and face would c0nsiderbly swell up. It became just too much of an annoyance for Harvey, so he decided to cut short his promising career in 1949.
2 Maurice "Rocket" Richard - Club Foot
Maurice "Rocket" Richard was one of the greatest players to ever play the game. He is considered to be one the NHL's first true superstar players. During his 18 season NHL career, all with the Montreal Canadiens, he accomplished many things. Among his eight Stanley Cup victories, he was also famously the first ever NHL player to score fifty goals in fifty games.
The "Rocket" is such an important player of the NHL's heritage, but there was once a possibility that Richard would never even make it to the league. Prior to starting his NHL career in 1942, he had tried to enlist in the military on three different occasions. Richard was denied entry all three times. This is because Richard had a deformed foot, and was deemed unfit for the military. While his foot may not have been good for the military, it obviously didn't seem to hinder his magnificent hockey career.
1 Max Domi - Diabetes
The most well-known NHL player who played with diabetes was Philadelphia Flyers legend, Bobby Clarke. Even though Arizona Coyotes forward Max Domi's father Tie had a long NHL career, Max's hockey idol growing up was Bobby Clarke. This is because like Clarke, Max Domi has Type 1 diabetes.
Domi has to constantly regulate his blood sugar levels. In order to maintain his health, he follows a strict diet and exercise regimen. Domi made sure the disease wouldn't stop his dream of playing in the NHL. If the way he has performed in his first two seasons is any indication, Domi is well on his way to a fantastic NHL career. Domi now has a chance to be an idol to all kids with diabetes, just like Bobby Clarke was an idol for him.
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