The most gruesome injuries in NHL history

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June 10th, 2020

Hockey players are some of the toughest people in the world, but they're only human. Devastating, and even life-threatening, accidents have happened throughout professional hockey history. Here are the five worst NHL injuries ever.

5. Claude Lemieux injures Kris Draper, instigates "Brawl in Hockeytown"

In Game 6 of the 1996 Western Conference Finals, Avalanche forward (and noted goon) Claude Lemieux checked Red Wings forward Kris Draper from behind, driving Draper’s face into the boards. He suffered broken jaw along with shattered cheek and orbital bones which required reconstructive surgery and numerous stitches.

This incident is widely considered the genesis of the Avalanche – Red Wings rivalry that exploded on March 26, 1997 with the "Brawl in Hockeytown," in which nine different fights occurred.

4. Zdeno Chara knocks Max Pacioretty into a stanchion

On Mar. 8, 2011, Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty suffered a fractured vertebra and a severe concussion when a hit from Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara sent him into a stanchion at the end of the benches. Pacioretty had to be stretchered off the ice and missed the rest of the season. Chara received a game misconduct but no further discipline.

The two mended fences soon after the incident as Chara apologized for what happened. As of 2020, both players are still enjoying productive careers in the NHL.

3. Clint Malarchuk’s neck sliced by errant skate

Sabres goalie Clint Malarchuk nearly died during a game on Mar. 22, 1989, when the skate of the Blues’ Steve Tuttle cut his jugular vein. The sight was so gruesome that 11 fans fainted while another two had heart attacks. Were it not for the quick thinking of Sabres athletic trainer, Jim Pizzutelli, Malarchuk might have lost his life.

Pizzutelli, a former combat medic who served in the Vietnam War, gripped Malarchuk’s neck and pinched off the blood vessel, so that the goalie wouldn’t bleed to death. Amazingly, 300 stitches and 10 days later, Malarchuk was back in goal for Buffalo. But sadly, the postscript for this incident is anything but pleasant.

2. Todd Bertuzzi ends Steve Moore’s career

On Mar. 8, 2004, during the third period of what was a 9-2 blowout victory by Steve Moore’s Avalanche over Todd Bertuzzi’s Canucks, the latter attempted to instigate a fight. Moore attempted to skate away, but Bertuzzi chased him and sucker punched him from behind. Moore was knocked unconscious and fell face-first on the ice. He fractured three neck vertebrae and suffered a concussion, and was never able to play again.

A civil lawsuit against Bertuzzi and the Canucks was settled over 10 years after the incident on Aug. 19, 2014.

1. Bill Masterton’s fatal injury

Video of the incident itself is hard to find, but Bill Masterton’s fatal head injury suffered on Jan. 13, 1968 is widely considered the darkest moment in NHL history. He is the only NHL player to die from an on-ice injury.

Masterton was converged upon by two defenders at the same time – Larry Cahan and Ron Harris of the Oakland Seals – and was sent directly onto the back of his head. Like many players at the time, Masterton was not wearing a helmet. He was knocked unconscious and died 30 hours later. The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the player who, "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey," was named in his honor. 

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