Five gruesome reminders that there is nobody tougher than a hockey player

One of my favourite one-liners of all time goes something like this:
“Soccer players try to pretend that they are hurt. Hockey players try and pretend they aren’t.”

Hockey players don’t sit on the sidelines with blisters or hangnails. They are tough. Don’t believe it? 

Drew Miller’s recent skate-to-the-face injury is all the proof we need, and he is far from the only one to take a blade or puck to the face.

There has been one fatality as the result of a play on-ice in an NHL game. Read on to find out who that was.

Hang on tight…
Drew Miller, NHL, Detroit Red Wings
During a faceoff in the offensive zone in a home game vs the Ottawa Senators, Miller was struck by the skate blade right off the face off. Ottawa’s Mark Stone got tripped up and his skate blade made contact with Miller’s face. Miller went down then got right back up miraculously and skated to the Wings’ bench frantically motioning with his right hand for his team’s training staff to help him. He skated off so fast that most of the players on the ice at the time likely had no idea what was happening. During the stitch-up in the dressing room, word broke that Miller wanted to return to the game. This guy has heart. I think the Leafs should trade for him, or at least his coach Mike Babcock, then acquire a player with Miller’s heart and courage.

Ryan Olsen, AHL
In a game on March 27, Winnipeg Jets prospect Ryan Olsen took on Phil Lane of the Portland Pirates. The fight happened in the first period. Olsen took a puck to the face in the second period. You should have seen his face at that point. Olsen’s third period was a piece of cake.

Martin Havlat, NHL, New Jersey Devils
In a game on Oct. 16, 2004, Havlat was pushed into referee Darcy Burchell and was somehow cut for 40 stitches. He suited up for the next game. That’s pretty tough.

Taylor Hall, NHL, Edmonton Oilers
During a pre-game warmup, Mr. Hall decided to do what a lot of pro hockey players do these days and that is skate in the pre-game warmup sans the helmet. They do this because it’s like fresh air for your hair when you are not wearing a helmet. Anyways Hall was skating around and collided with a teammate and wound up cut on his head and his forehead. Not pretty. This is not the kind of headshot you want on your driver’s license. Hall looked a lot like Jason from the Friday the 13th movie series, minus the hockey mask, no pun intended.

Anyways Hall needed 30 stitches to close the gap, and it was not a pretty picture the next day when he faced the media.

Borje Salming, NHL, Toronto Maple Leafs
Cut on the face after being accidentally stepped on. During a game against the Red Wings, on Nov. 26, 1986, Salming collided with Gerald Gallant and wound up needing 200 stitches to close up the gap. He was back on the ice only 3 days later.

Clint Malarchuk, NHL, Buffalo Sabres
This is the granddaddy of them all right here.
The infamous moment that Malarchuk is perhaps most known for occurred during a game on March 22, 1989, between the visiting St. Louis Blues and Malarchuk's Buffalo Sabres. Steve Tuttle of the Blues and Uwe Krupp of the Sabres collided at the mouth of the goal, and Tuttle's skate caught Malarchuk on the neck, severing his jugular vein/carotid artery.

With pools of blood all over the ice, Malarchuk somehow left the ice under his own power with the assistance of his team's athletic trainer, Jim Pizzutelli, ATC.
Many spectators were physically sickened by the sight, with nine fainting and two suffering heart attacks while three teammates vomited on the ice. Local television cameras covering the game cut away from the sight of Malarchuk after realizing what had happened.

Malarchuk, meanwhile, had only two thoughts: He was going to die, and he had to do it the right way. "All I wanted to do was get off the ice", said Malarchuk. "My mother was watching the game on TV, and I didn't want her to see me die." Aware that his mother had been watching the game on TV, he had an equipment manager call and tell her he loved her. Then he asked for a priest.

Malarchuk's life was saved by Pizzutelli, the team's athletic trainer and a former army medic who had served in Vietnam. He reached into Malarchuk's neck and pinched off the bleeding, not letting go until doctors arrived to begin suturing the wound. Still, Malarchuk came within minutes of becoming only the second fatality to result from an on-ice injury in NHL history (the first was Bill Masterton). It was estimated that if the skate hit 1/8 inch higher on Malarchuk's jugular, he would have been dead within 2 minutes. In the dressing room and on his way to the hospital, doctors spent 90 minutes and used over 300 stitches to close the wound. It was also said that had the incident occurred at the other end of the ice (Malarchuk was on the locker room end of the ice, as the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium had the locker room exits at the end of the ice instead of the normal locations behind the benches), Malarchuk never would have made it and would have died.


There has been one fatality on the ice in NHL play and that was Bill Masterton