Little Bits of History

Hockey is Rough

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 22, 2013
Clint Malarchuk injured on the ice

Clint Malarchuk injured on the ice

March 22, 1989: Ice hockey goaltender Clint Malarchuk  is hurt during a game. Malarchuk was playing for the Buffalo Sabres. They were hosting the St. Louis Blues. Steve Tuttle of St. Louis collided with Uwe Krupp of Buffalo in front of the goal. Tuttle’s skate blade caught Malarchuk on the neck and severed his jugular vein. Bleeding profusely, Malarchuk managed to leave the ice under his own power with the help of the team’s athletic trainer, Jim Pizzutelli.

Hockey is known for its violence and injuries are commonplace. Even so, the amount of blood on the ice was overwhelming. In the stands, nine people fainted and two others had heart attacks. Three of Malarchuk’s teammates vomited on the ice. The game was being televised and the cameras cut away as soon as they realized the extent of the injury. Malarchuk’s mother was at home watching the game. Malarchuk said he knew he was dying and didn’t want his mother to see him do so. He had someone call her and tell her he loved her and then sent for a priest.

Pizzutelli had been a medic in Vietnam and he is credited with saving Malarchuk’s life. He pinched the major blood vessel closed and did not let go until doctors arrived and began to suture the wound. Doctors said if the blade had hit just 1/8 inch higher, Malarchuk would have been dead within two minutes. Instead, they worked for 90 minutes and placed more than 300 stitches to close the wound. Malarchuk spent one night in the hospital and was back at practice 4 days later and back as goalie a week after the incident.

Malarchuk continued to play until 1992 and went on to coach the sport. The NHL does not require players to wear any sort of neck protection. In 1995, Swedish hockey player Bengt Akerblom was injured in a similar manner and died due to blood loss. On June 1, 1996 Swedish players were mandated to wear neck protection. On February 10, 2008 while the Florida Panthers were in Buffalo, Richard Zednik was also injured by a skate blade cutting his neck. He, too, survived.

“All I wanted to do was get off the ice. My mother was watching the game on TV, and I didn’t want her to see me die.” – Clint Malarchuk

“Doctors told me to take the rest of the year off, but there was no way. The longer you wait, the harder it’s going to be. I play for keeps.” – Clint Malarchuk

“A puck is a hard rubber disc that hockey players strike when they can’t hit one another.” – Jimmy Cannon

“Red ice sells hockey tickets.” – Bob Stewart

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Only two players from the NHL have died as a result of on-ice injuries. Howie Morenz (1937) died from complications from a broken leg, suffered on the ice while playing for the Canadiens. While recuperating in the hospital, he began complaining of chest pain and which may have been a heart attack. He tried to get up, but collapsed onto the floor and was found there, dead at the age of 34. Bill Masterson (1968) was moving the puck down ice when he was checked. He fell backwards onto the ice and struck the back of his head. He received a massive brain hemorrhage and died two days later at the age of 29. Akerblom played for a Swedish team when he was injured in the same manner as Malarchuk. Not as lucky, he bled to death at the age of 28.

Also on this day: Laser – In 1960, the laser was patented.
Flying Wallendas – In 1978, Karl Wallenda died from a fall.
Preschool Predicament – In 1984, the McMartin Preschool indictments were brought.