Hockey is a dangerous game. You have athletes flying around hitting each other with knives attached to their feet. Injuries are inevitable. Every season is filled with injuries and the loss of a key player or conversely, the return of a key player at an opportune time can make the difference between winning and losing.
Every sport has its fair share of injuries, but the ability to come back from these injuries is part of the reason we love hockey players. We throw out words like "character", "leadership", and "determination" to describe the toughness of our players and when a hockey player plays hurt, you can be sure that somewhere on the internet you can find someone shouting about how hockey players are tougher than other athletes. Playing with a broken ankle or separated shoulder can help even the most mediocre of players reach legendary status, while sitting out with an injury can sometimes draw criticism.
The truth of the matter is, playing through a serious injury isn't always the best idea. In fact sometimes it's downright stupid. In recent years, with the advancement of research on brain injuries, we've become more sensitive about letting players play after taking a shot to the head. When Colby Armstrong tried to play through a concussion as a member of the Maple Leafs he was lambasted for it. A few years earlier he would've drawn praise for such an act. Still, if it isn't a brain injury, we expect our hockey players to keep playing and as long as they have something to gain - i.e. a Stanley Cup or a new contract - many players will continue to take that risk.
At the end of the day, hockey players are only human and can't be expected to be invincible. We always expect them to suck it up and get back on the ice, but sometimes that's just impossible.
15. Borje Salming gets his face stepped on
"The King" may have broken the NHL's European barrier, but the Hall of Fame defenseman had his face broken open in a 1986 game against the Detroit Red Wings. Salming was lying in front of the goal, when Gerard Gallant accidentally stepped on his face. Salming required facial surgery and an estimated 250 stitches to close the gash, although the exact number of stitches is unknown.
Maple Leafs wingers Steve Thomas said, "He looked like a softball after the game." Salming was back at practice three days after the injury.
14. Max Pacioretty meets the stanchion
In a March 8, 2011 game between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, Zdeno Chara threw a check on Max Pacioretty that forced him to collide face first with the stanchion at the end of the Bruins bench. Pacioretty was knocked unconscious and suffered a severe concussion along with a fractured vertebrae. He was sidelined for the remainder of the 2010-11 season.
Ridiculously, the Montreal police felt the need to investigate Chara for the incident, but no charges were layed. Perhaps equally as ridiculous, Mark Recchi claimed that a trip to the movie theater by Pacioretty a few days after the injury was proof that he wasn't seriously injured. Thank you for your diagnosis, Dr. Recchi.
13. Mark Howe gets impaled
In a December 27, 1980 game Hartford Whalers defenseman Mark Howe slid into his own net, lifting the goal post with his skates and causing the metal spike that held the post in place to impale him, just missing his spinal column. Howe lost three and half pints of blood and within six weeks of the injury had dropped from 192 to 176 pounds. Despite this, Howe returned to the Whalers' lineup, but struggled for the remainder of the season.
Fearing that he would never be the same after the injury, the Whalers traded Howe to the Philadelphia Flyers where he would go on to have two 20-goal seasons and become a three time First Team All-Star.
12. Kurtis Foster breaks his femur
Trying to beat San Jose Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell to the puck on an icing play in a March 2008 game, Minnesota Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster was checked into the boards cracking his kneecap and shattering his left femur into three pieces. Foster required nine hours of surgery and a rod, screws, and wires in his leg to fix the injury.
Foster missed the remainder of the season and the majority of the 2008-09 season before returning to the Wild lineup for the final 10 games. The following season he registered a career high 42 points after signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
11. Eddie Shore nearly loses his ear
After a 1926 trade saw Billy Coutu go from the Montreal Canadiens to the Boston Bruins, his first practice with the Bruins resulted in a fight with teammate Eddie Shore. Shore and Coutu ran at each other several times and during the altercation Shore's ear was nearly ripped off. After refusing several doctors' insistence that his ear be amputated, Shore found a doctor willing to sew it back on and watched, without anesthetic, holding a mirror as the ear was put back into place.
"I made him change the very last stitch. If I had not done that, he'd have left a scar," said Shore. "I told him I was just a farm boy who did not want his looks messed up."
10. Trent McCleary takes a shot to the throat
During a January 29, 2000 game between the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers, winger Trent McCleary went down to block a Chris Therien slapshot and took a puck to the throat suffering a fractured larynx and a collapsed lung. McCleary was rushed to the hospital where doctors performed an emergency tracheotomy, saving his life. McCleary required several surgeries in order to be able to speak again.
The following season McCleary attempted a return to the NHL, but with an air passage that was 15 per cent narrower than prior to the injury, had trouble breathing and was forced to retire.
9. Richard Zednik's throat cut
In a February 10, 2008 game between the Florida Panthers and the Buffalo Sabres, Olli Jokinen was knocked down by Clarke MacArthur and as he fell to the ice his skate came up and cut teammate Richard Zednik's throat cutting his carotid artery and just missing his jugular vein. Zednik was rushed to the hospital and required an hour of surgery to reconnect the artery.
Zednik missed the remainder of the season, but returned to the Florida Panthers for his final season in 2008-09.
8. Gordie Howe fractures his skull
Gordie Howe played pro hockey until the age of 52, but his storybook career was almost ended 30 years earlier. In a 1950 playoff game between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs Howe attempted to check Ted Kennedy and crashed head first into the boards, fracturing his skull and knocking him unconscious. Howe's family feared for his life as surgery was performed to relieve pressure on his brain.
Howe returned the next season and scored 86 points to lead the league in scoring by 20 points en route to his first of four consecutive Art Ross trophies. The rest, as they say, is history.
2 Ace Bailey's career ends
The former Maple Leaf had his career ended during a December 12, 1933 game at Boston Garden. Angry over a hit he had just received from defenceman King Clancy, Eddie Shore charged toward Bailey and tripped him from behind. Bailey hit the ice fracturing his skull. Bailey was rushed to hospital, but after suffering cerebral hemorrhaging that night, his death seemed imminent. After two surgeries to relieve pressure on his brain, Bailey's chances of living remained slim, but he managed to recover.
On February 14, 1934 the NHL held its very first All-Star Game to raise money for Bailey and his family. Prior to the game Ace Bailey and Eddie Shore shook hands, signaling that all had been forgiven between the two.
1 Ted Green left paralyzed
In a 1969 exhibition game enforcer Ted Green of the Boston Bruins was involved in a fight with the St. Louis Blues' Wayne Maki. The two players began swinging their sticks and Maki struck Green in the head. Green suffered a fractured skull and was left paralyzed with little hope of ever resuming his NHL career.
A year later Green miraculously returned to the NHL with a metal plate in his head. He would go on to win a Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 1972 and three Avco Cup Championships in the WHA, including the inaugural one in 1973.
5. Howie Morenz breaks his leg in four places
In the first period of a January 28, 1937 game between the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Black Hawks, Habs legend Howie Morenz lost his balance, fell to the ice, and crashed leg first into the boards, catching his left skate in the siding. Pursuing defender Earl Seibert couldn't stop and landed on Morenz. The result was a fractured leg in four places and the end of Morenz's illustrious career.
While recovering in hospital, Morenz became depressed and the realization that he would never play hockey again sent him into a nervous breakdown. On March 8, 1937 Howie Morenz died of a heart attack at the age of 34.
4. Bryan Berard nearly loses his eye
March 11, 2000 while playing for the Maple Leafs in the battle of Ontario, Berard took a stick to the right eye from the Senators' Marian Hossa. Berard dropped immediately and a pool of blood spilled to the ice. Not only was Berard's career in jeopardy, but there was fear that he might lose his eye. He suffered a fractured orbital bone, cut cornea, and detached retina.
After seven operations and being fit with a special lens to meet the NHL's minimum vision requirement of 20/400, Berard returned to the NHL with the New York Rangers for the 2001-02 season and played several more years in the league.
3. Steve Moore gets attacked
I think we all remember the night Steve Moore's career was ended 8:41 into the third period of a 9-2 Colorado Avalanche victory over the Vancouver Canucks on February 16, 2004. Allegedly looking for retribution for a hit on Canuck's captain Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi grabbed Moore from behind, sucker punched him, and drove him into the ice. Two more players jumped on top and after laying motionless on the ice for ten minutes, Steve Moore was stretchered off the ice. Moore suffered three broken vertebrae and a concussion and never played another game.
Bertuzzi was suspended for the incident, pleaded guilty to criminal assault causing bodily harm, and in the summer of 2014 - more than ten years after the incident - the two sides reached an agreement on a civil suit.
2. Clint Malarchuk gets his throat slashed
Nineteen years before Zednik had his throat slashed, on March 22, 1989 while playing net for the Buffalo Sabres, Clint Malarchuk took a skate to the throat from the St. Louis Blues' Steve Tuttle. Tuttle and Uwe Krupp had gotten tangled up in front of the net and fell on top of the goaltender. Tuttle's skate cut Malarchuk's jugular vein and severed his carotid artery. Sabres trainer Jim Pizzutelli rushed to Malarchuk's aid and put pressure on his neck to stabilize the injury and save his life. After being rushed to the hospital for surgery, Malarchuk remarkably returned to the ice just 10 days later.
In Clint Malarchuk's autobiography, he reveals that this one of a few incidents in which he escaped death - later he put a bullet in his brain and survived - having dealt with depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post dramatic stress disorder, the latter of which resulted from this injury.
1. Bill Masterton dies
On January 15, 1968 as a member of the Minnesota North Stars, Bill Masterton took a hit from Oakland Seals defensemen Larry Cahan and Ron Harris and fell backwards landing on his head and knocking him unconscious. Masterton allegedly regained consciousness long enough to mutter the words, "Never again, never again" before again losing consciousness. He succumbed to his injuries 30 hours after the hit and is the only player in NHL history to die as a direct result from on ice injuries.
Masterton has had his name immortalized by the NHL with a trophy baring his name given out annually for "perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey".