November 07, 2009
(No, the first decade of the 21st century doesn't technically end until 2011. Save your bellyaching. But we've had nine NHL seasons and one stolen from us since 1999-2000, and Yahoo! Sports has decided it's time to rank the best and worst of the last "decade." Enjoy, and snark freely in the comments.)
Some of these all-decade lists are lighthearted, nostalgic compilations of the last 10 years of NHL hockey; and some of them are what you're about to read.
The NHL has seen some truly gruesome moments since 2000. Lives were threatened. Careers were shortened. Reputations were ruined. We wish something a little more whimsical like Matt Walker's mangled finger could have made this list. But it didn't.
Keep in mind that some of these injuries are ranked based not only on their severity but their impact culturally on hockey. Also keep in mind that the last 10 years have featured so many grisly incidents that the injury commemorated in the photo above is not, in fact, No. 1 overall.
These video highlights have been everywhere for the last 10 years, but please keep in mind that many are distrubing and not for all audiences. Here are the Top 10 Most Brutal NHL Injuries of the Last Decade ...
"Potentially ruptured testicle" is going to earn a player a spot on this list in any decade, as the then-Philadelphia Flyers winger attempted to block a shot by Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green(notes) in the 2008 Eastern Conference quarterfinals and ... well, he took one for the team.
As you can see, it was insult to injury: In a controversial moment, the refs allowed play to continue on the Capitals' third-period power play, and Green scored the game-tying goal in a contest the Caps would eventually win (though they'd lose the series in seven).
Thoresen? Tests later showed that the worst fears wouldn't be realized. He was released from the hospital, returned to the series in Game 3 and would play 14 total games in the postseason. That's testicular fortitude.
• • •
9. Steve Yzerman's Eye, 2004
In Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals in 2004, the Detroit Red Wings Hall of Famer took a puck off the eye when teammate Mathieu Schneider's(notes) shot deflected off of Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff(notes). To see a star player go down like this was nothing short of horrific.
Yzerman required four-and-a-half hours of surgery at a Detroit hospital "to repair a scratched cornea and broken bone just below his left eye." He missed the rest of the postseason and returned after the lockout wearing a face shield, which was absent when the injury occurred. Images of Stevie Y's crimson eye became propaganda for those who wanted visors mandatory in the NHL.
• • •
The Washington Capitals captain had kept all his teeth intact through 373 NHL games until a puck struck his face in a Nov. 2006 game against Boston. (Being a hockey player, he naturally finished his shift.) The aftermath, from the Washington Post:
Two of his top teeth are gone. Braces hold three others in place. His palate, meantime, was repaired with the aid of cadaver bone and a screw, inserted during three hours of surgery Thursday morning.
• • •
In March 2008, the Minnesota Wild defenseman was chasing down an icing in a race with San Jose Sharks winger Torrey Mitchell(notes). Contact between the two was made, and in a flash Foster's season was over.
Foster's femur snapped in half and his patella cracked. Doctors worked to repair it for 10 hours. As Foster recalled in a harrowing interview with the Star Tribune:
Trying to beat out an icing, Foster was pushed from behind by Mitchell. "All I remember is my kneecap taking everything," Foster said. "Once I realized my head, neck and back were OK, I tried to move my leg and in my mind it was moving, but when I looked at my leg, it wasn't moving. So I knew something was really wrong."
He returned to the Wild on March 7, 2009, and signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning that summer. Like Yzerman's, the injury sparked intense debate about rules changes, this time for players racing to ice the puck.
• • •
Blood filled Bieska's sock in a gruesome scene, and his career was feared to be over. But he worked through a long, experimental rehab process to get back on the ice and be a productive player for the franchise.
(Honorable Mention: Teemu Selanne(notes) slicing his own leg with his skate and missing over a month in 2008; and Jamie Heward(notes) getting sliced on the face by Mike Modano's(notes) skate in 2006.)
• • •
Any number of concussions in the last 10 years could make this list (Eric Lindros's in 2000 at the hands of Scott Stevens, for example), but few combine the brutal nature of the injury and the controversy about the legality of hitting in the game better than Bergeron's. The bright young star for the Boston Bruins was driven into the end boards from behind by Randy Jones(notes) of the Philadelphia Flyers in Oct. 2007, suffering a broken nose and Grade III concussion.
Bergeron would miss the remainder of the season and make a long journey back from post-concussion syndrome. Jones, meanwhile, only received a two-game suspension from the NHL, as discipline czar Colin Campbell said that Jones delivered "a hard check to a player who was in a vulnerable position" but didn't intend to injure him.
The Bruins' faithful disagreed with the brevity of that suspension, which manifested itself in March 2009 when announcer Jack Edwards cackled manically about a borderline check on Jones during a Flyers/Bruins game.
• • •
One of the most career-altering injuries on the list. In March 2000, while a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Berard's right eye was clipped by the stick of then-Ottawa Senators winger Marian Hossa(notes). (Apologies for the poor video quality.)
The eye was slit on sclera, and there was fear he'd lose it along with this career. After several surgeries (and a tidy $6.5 million insurance settlement), Berard had 20/600 vision in his eye which was elevated to an NHL-required 20/400 with the use of a contact lens. He missed a full season, rehabbed for a comeback, and played the rest of the decade through back injuries and an embarrassing drug test failure.
• • •
The fact that this all-time ghastly scene isn't at No. 1 is a testament to the all-time ghastly scenes that ranked ahead of it. Because few hockey fans will forget the first time they witnessed the Florida Panthers' winger getting his throat slashed by the skate of teammate Olli Jokinen(notes) in Feb. 2008:
He was eventually discharged from the hospital, missed the rest of the 2007-08 season and returned the following year for the Panthers. Over 20,000 fans sent get-well messages to the Panthers' Web site for Zednik. Like other incidents on this list, it sparked a League-wide debate, this time regarding neck guards for NHL players.
• • •
2. Steve Moore's Neck, 2004
We're running our all-decade lists through the end of December. Sadly, this will not be the last time you see this tragic moment in NHL history mentioned as a low-point for the League.
It was March 8, 2004. The Vancouver Canucks were looking for vengeance after Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore checked captain Markus Naslund(notes) near the head in a previous game. One game had already passed between the teams, but this contest would find Todd Bertuzzi(notes) viciously attacking Moore from behind because ... well, the courts haven't determined that yet:
You know the aftermath: The sucker-punch fractured Moore's vertebrae, cut his face and gave him a concussion; his NHL career was finished. Bertuzzi, after tearfully apologizing, was suspended indefinitely by the NHL as the incident received coverage from ESPN to "The Today Show." Bertuzzi ended up missing 20 games along with the locked-out NHL season. Visit CBC Sports for complete coverage of this landmark incident that's still being litigated in the courts.
• • •
1. Trent McCleary's Tracheotomy, 2000
Yes, it takes an emergency, life-saving tracheotomy to top this horrific list.
Trent McCleary was a center for the Montreal Canadiens. In Jan. 2000 against the Philadelphia Flyers, he went down to block a Chris Therien shot and took a puck to the throat.
McCleary very quickly got to his feet and skated toward the trainer. Because the puck had collapsed his windpipe he could not breathe. He was carried off the ice, and lost consciousness while in the tunnel. He easily could have died that night, but he was rushed to a hospital, and had an emergency tracheostomy within 10 minutes of leaving the arena. He remained in critical condition before being upgraded to stable condition on Feb. 1.
The injury cost McCleary his hockey career, after his air passage was 15 percent narrower than before.
Let's hope we don't see any of these reoccur in the next 10 years.
Puck Daddy's Best & Worst of the Decade lists will run on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday through the end of 2009. (Yes, that includes holidays; cynical appraisal never sleeps.)