by Rob Joyce
The general consensus is that hockey players are among the toughest athletes in the world, and that’s never more noticeable than the end of the year. When the season ends, players go through a locker room clean-out day, which normally includes a casual mention of all the ailments and injuries through which they’ve played.
Other injuries are a little more noticeable. Take last weekend, when Blue Jackets’ rookie took a puck to the face during Game 3 of Columbus’ game against Pittsburgh, breaking his cheekbone and leaving a gash on his face. He’s been declared out for the rest of the playoffs, but even with his eye nearly swollen shut he managed to play a few shifts in the third period before leaving for overtime. The fact that he even played at all is nothing short of remarkable.
It’s just one of countless examples of hockey players fighting through an injury for even a short amount of time. Among the thousands of injuries that we never hear about, here are some other notables who did the same thing:
During Game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup Final against the Red Wings, the Toronto defenseman broke his ankle trying to block a Gordie Howe shot. Not only did he return to the game, he scored the overtime winner to force a decisive Game 7, where they’d go on to win the franchise’s third straight Cup.
The Sabres’ goalie had his throat slashed during a game against the Blues in 1989, severing his carotid artery in one of the most gruesome injuries in sports history. The initial efforts of trainer Jim Pizzutelli saved his life, as Malarchuk would require 300 stitches after losing 1.5 liters of blood. The injury was the cause of significant trauma to him later in life, but he was off the ice for just 10 days.
During Game 3 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Final against the Penguins, the Bruins’ center blocked an Evgeni Malkin slapshot, breaking his leg in the process. After about 10 seconds of gathering himself, instead of crawling to the bench he continued to kill off a penalty and remained on the ice for nearly a full minute.
The Hall of Famer, already playing with a groin injury that was supposed to end his season, was knocked out during Game 7 of the 1952 Stanley Cup Final (remember, they didn’t wear helmets back then). Once regaining consciousness he was assisted off the ice and taken to the locker room, where he again lost consciousness for a bit. Despite doctor’s orders, he returned to the game and scored the Cup-clinching goal.
The Captain’s penchant for pain tolerance is legendary. He broke his leg late in the 2001 season and still played in Game 1 of the playoffs. The next year, at 36-years-old, he returned to the Red Wings following the 2002 Olympics. His swollen right knee was discovered to have almost no cartilage left, yet he not only played in every game of the 2002 playoffs (he received an injection into his hip prior to every game), he was second in the league in playoff points. After the season he’d undergo surgery three times to replace the shredded ligaments.