Injury. It’s any hockey player’s worst nightmare.
Over the 100 years of the NHL, there have been some interesting cases of injuries either impacting a player’s potential, or outright forcing them to leave the game.
Hockey stars like Clint Marlarchuk and Richard Zednik, who both had their throat slashed by wayward skates, or Bill Masterton dying from an on ice injury are the more severe and extreme cases of player injuries. But the plague of injury is just as prevalent in more recent cases, where practice and in-game tangles strongly impact players.
Perhaps most recent memory recalls Robby Fabbri of the St. Louis Blues, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), resulting in a season ender. For a team who made it to the 2016 Western Conference Final, the Blues are now battling the Calgary Flames for a wild card spot in this year’s playoffs. ACL tears are no joke, especially for skaters of his speed. Fabbri will undoubtedly be missed, considering he is a power forward with great stats. At only 21, this is an injury that could burden him for the remainder of his career.
Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings practiced with the team for the first time since October after suffering a groin injury in the Kings season opener against the San Jose Sharks. Quick is not a stranger to groin injuries, as he previously suffered one in November of 2013. Currently, he has no timetable to return, but the two-time Vezina nominee is confident he will make a comeback in early March.
Bryan Bickell of the Carolina Hurricanes was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in October/November of last year. This was a shock to the hockey community, whether you were a Canes fan or not. Bickell is optimistic about returning to playing the game, however, a diagnosis like this is more than likely career-ending. While not an on-ice injury, this is still something that impacts both the Hurricanes and the hockey community at large. Bickell hopes to return to the ice late February, and I’m sure we all wish him luck.
Beau Bennett. Oh, Beau. Your short career has been plagued by injuries here, there, and everywhere. Since 2013, Bennett has racked up an unfortunate but impressive 11 injuries. Most recently sustained is a leg injury during practice on January 23rd, to which he has not bounced back from, and currently shows no timetable for a return. The more troubling aspect of this long list of injuries is the heckling commentary that surrounds them. While Bennett has embraced this in good fun and frequently makes fun of himself on social media, he had actually quit social media during the 2014-2015 season due to hateful comments and constant backlash over his injury status from angry Penguins fans. He did not return to social media until the eventual Stanley Cup win with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and subsequent trade to the New Jersey Devils.
For Penguins fans and hockey fans alike, in more recent years, no early retirement has brought about more discussion than Pascal Dupuis. In 2015, Dupuis was forced to retire due to a diagnosis in 2014 of blood clots in his leg, with one traveling to his lung. Dupuis was no stranger to injury, having torn his anterior cruciate ligament and was struck by a wayward hockey puck and had to be stretchered off the ice. He returned to playing hockey for 18 games during the 2015-2016 season despite his continued suffering from health issues, but ultimately announced his retirement from hockey on December 8th, 2015. Dupuis has remained active in the Penguins organization, and was ultimately able to lift the cup in triumph when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup at the end of the season.
There are plenty of players currently on injured reserve to mention, however, a more troubling aspect to the game continues to be concussions. New concussion protocol has been implemented league wide to be alert of the signs. These “concussion spotters” are stationed at every game, along with at NHL headquarters in New York.
Sidney Crosby, captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins, missed the first 6 games of the ’16-’17 season due to concussion, inevitably sparking conversation on if his career would soon end. There are currently 10 active players in the league out with concussion or concussion-like symptoms, but with the teams’ options to announce “undisclosed” injuries, or simply “upper body” injuries, this number could be more. This is also not taking into account the players that have come back from concussion injuries to play, such as Patrick Sharp of the Dallas Stars.
A recent debate over penalty calls was raised when multiple Minnesota Wild players repeatedly slashed Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames) on the hand a reported 21 times in one game with little to no calls. This resulted ultimately in a fractured finger, taking Gaudreau out of the line-up for a maximum of six weeks.
The real question remains: is the league doing enough to protect players from serious injuries? Are these “concussion spotters” enough? Are the referees and linesman doing enough to prevent serious injuries from occurring?
The questionable nature of referees, linesmen and penalty calls, however, is a debate for another day.