The history of the NHL has been littered with gruesome injuries. For the first 50 years of its existence, players didn't even wear helmets, despite the hazards of a puck flying at high speeds and spine quaking body checks. For many fans of hockey horrifying injuries just demonstrate the inherent toughness of the sport. If you can make it off the ice in one piece, you must have something special going on. Others believe that it's a sign that hockey is a throwback to humanity's darkest ages. The truth lies somewhere in between.
Here's a collection of the sport's most terrible injuries.
Irvine Wallce "Ace" Bailey was a nimble right wing on the Toronto Maple Leafs between 1926 and 1933. He was the NHL's leading scorer during the 1928-29 season, and he led his team to win the Stanley Cup in 1932. But a blow the head, delivered from behind by Boston's notorious bruiser Eddie Shore, cost Bailey his career and nearly his life. Rushed to the hospital with a fractured skull, few thought that Bailey would make it through surgery, but he did. He and Shore shared an on-ice reconciliation during the first NHL All Star game, in 1934.
Eddie Shore had a horrific hockey injury of his own. He almost lost an ear to teammate Eddie Coutu during a practice in 1925.
Bill Masterson's death was the reason that NHL players began to wear helmets. The Minnesota North Stars center landed on the ice head-first after a vicious body check delivered by Oakland's Larry Cahan and Ron Harris during a game in 1968. Masterson was heard to say "Never again," before passing out cold. He never regained consciousness.
After his death, players suffered less stigma from wearing helmets on the ice, and, by 1979, league rules mandated helmets for everyone.
Bill Masterson was the second NHL player to die as a result of his injuries. The first was Howie Morenz, who played center for the Montreal Canadiens from 1923 until his death in 1937. Morenz was an outstanding goal scorer who played on three Stanley Cup teams and led the league in points twice during his career. His injury, a broken leg that he suffered from colliding with the boards after a mishap with Chicago's Earl Seibert, was the sort of thing that should have kept him off the ice for only a few months. Instead, due to complications following surgery, it killed him.
Buffalo Sabres goalie Clint Malarchuk suffered the sort of injury that keeps goalies up at night: a skate to the throat. During a 1989 game against the St. Louis Blues, Malarchuk found himself going down to the crease just as two players collided with the goal. Uwe Krupp, a St. Louis defenseman, got tangled up with Malarchuk, and his skate sliced the goalie's jugular vein open. Television cameras quickly cut away from the gory sight, and Malarchuk thought for certain that he was going to die. He didn't, but his years of NHL excellence were left behind in that pool of blood.
Goalies aren't the only players with their necks on the line. In 2008, Florida Panthers right wing Richard Zednik fell victim to the blade of teammate Olli Jokinen, who had tripped over an opponent's leg. Zednik's carotid artery had been opened but not severed, and he quickly received life saving surgery. He returned to the ice during the 2008-09 season, none the worse for wear.
NHL history began in 1917, when a group of Canadian businessmen went renegade.