Hockey is an unforgiving sport. Generating little less serious injuries than American football, hockey is rightfully regarded as one of the world’s riskiest sports. This list takes a look at some of the most blood-chilling injuries in the history of the NHL.
Much like hockey, soccer is a sport that generates a lot of injuries, sometimes lethal. Here is a list of 10 footballers who have tragically died from match-induced injuries.
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Bill Masterton’s Tragic Death
Even though hockey is regarded as a dangerous sport, only one NHL player has died due to injuries suffered during a match. That player was Minnesota North Stars’ Bill Masterson. Back in the 1960s, the NHL didn’t require for the players to wear protective helmets during the match. In 1968, in a game against Oakland Seals, Masterton collided with two other players. The force of impact caused him to lose consciousness before falling onto the ice. Because of this, Masterton couldn’t adjust his fall and his head hit the hard ice. Allegedly Bill regained his consciousness only once after the incident, stating “never again”. The player died only 30 hours later in the hospital.
This tragic event is what directly sparked debates around whether helmets should be a compulsory addition to a hockey player’s kit. Masterton’s death helped speed up the process of making the protective headwear mandatory and his sacrifice probably saved lives of many more hockey players throughout the years.
In order to celebrate Masterton’s legacy, and pay respect to the first and only lethal injury in the NHL, the Bill Masterton’s Trophy was founded. The trophy that since 1968, is given to the players who “demonstrate perseverance and dedication to hockey”. Even though the award is not the most recognizable decoration in hockey, it is certainly a good way to make sure that Masterton will never be forgotten.
Clint Malarchuk’s Severed Neck
Clint Malarchuk is a former NHL goaltender who played for teams such as Quebec Nordiques, Washington Capitals, and Buffalo Sabres. When Malarchuk was playing for the Buffalo Sabres, he has suffered a severe neck injury that is hard to forget for anyone that has heard of it. During a game in 1989, two players crashed into a goal crease. Malarchuk was hit in the right front side of his neck by the skate of one of the players. Because of the accident, Malarchuk’s carotid artery was completely severed and his jugular vein partially cut. The frightening sight of Malarchuk bleeding out on the ice caused a lot of panic. Reportedly, 11 fans had fainted, 2 suffered a heart attack and multiple players had puked on ice.
At the moment of his injury, Clint was sure that he is going to die. The only thing that the player could think of at the moment was to get off the ice, hoping that his mother who was watching the game on TV, won’t witness her sons death. Malarchuk managed to leave the ice on his own feet. Fortunately, Malarchuk’s injury proved nonlethal. Sabres athletic trainer and a Vietnam War veteran, Jim Pizzutelli helped Clint get off the ice and gripped his neck to block the bleeding while awaiting the paramedics, who managed to safe the player. Malarchuk’s cut was so severe that they had to use 300 stiches to close off the wound. Surprisingly Clint was back on the ice in less than two weeks time.
Richard Zednik’s Gruesome Cut
Two decades after Malarchuk’s tragic injury, Richard Zednik suffered a much similar one. Ironically, this game also involved the Buffalo Sabres, which Zednik’s Florida Panthers were facing on February 10, 2008. In a very comparable situation, two players were in a scuffle and lost balance as Richard Zednik was skating near them. As Richard was trying go move past them, one of the collapsing players’ skate made contact with Zednik’s neck. The impact caused Zednik to fall forward as his neck expelled a trail of blood onto the ice and begun Richard begun bleeding out.
Thankfully Zednik was alert and while putting pressure to his wound, skated off the ice to get help. A year after Malarchuk viewed the clip of Zednik’s throat getting cut, he started seeking therapy for his PTSD. While both of those NHL players survived those horrible accidents, such an injury doesn’t always end well. A 16-year old Benjamin Edward Balkind died on January 6th, 2022 during a game at the Brunswick School after suffering an injury similar to the ones of Zednik and Malarchuk. This event reignited a debate on whether protective collars should be made mandatory for use in High-School, College and Professional level hockey.
Gerard Gallant Steps on Börje Salming’s Face
Salming is a retired NHL player from Sweden who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was the first European to have appeared in a 1000 career NHL games. On November 26th, 1986 in an away match against the Detroit Red Wings, Börje fell on the ice during a scuffle. Soon after Salming’s unfortunate fall, Gerard Gallant accidentally stepped on Salming’s face with a skate, supporting his full body weight on Börje’s head. Salming’s wound was very deep and required 200 stiches to fix. He has recovered well and the scar healed up nicely over the years.
Sadly, Salming has been recently diagnosed with ALS, a disease that causes progressive loss of motor function. There is a strong link between the development of ALS in people who have suffered repeated brain injuries, which isn’t unlikely for a hockey player. Such cases keep reminding about how important helmets and masks are during play.
Trent McCleary’s Unfortunate Block
Trent McCleary almost died as he suffered one of the worst hockey injuries in the history. A hockey puck struck his throat after the player blocked his opponent’s slapshot. Everything occurred in a 2000 game were McCleary, playing for the Montreal Canadiens faced the Philadelphia Flyers. The hit was so severe that Trent looked like he was about to lose consciousness. The puck broken McCleary’s larynx causing internal bleeding, which cut off McCleary’s airway and caused one of his lungs to collapse. The player was rushed to the hospital and arrived there in a critical condition. McCleary’s injury required a tracheotomy procedure to allow oxygen back into his system. McCleary survived, but was awfully close to death. This injury unfortunately cut McCleary’s career short.
Bryan Berard Gets Hit in the Eye
Back in the year 2000, a Toronto Maple Leafs player Bryan Bernard competed in a match against the Ottawa Senators. During the game, Berard got unluckily hit with a hockey stick. The blade of the stick made impact to his face, especially affecting his eyes. Berard started bleeding from his eye socket and temporarily lost his sight. The eye was severely slashed on the sclera which resulted in a retinal tear and a detached retina. The player needed to be helped off ice as he couldn’t see. The injury required a lengthy operation, however Berard’s eyesight never got back to perfect. Despite this, Berard still managed to continue his NHL career on ice even with impaired vision.