Dur­ing every ice bat­tle, play­ers not only work to the lim­it, but also con­stant­ly risk seri­ous injury. Find out what sac­ri­fices hock­ey play­ers make for the great game.

Writer Paul Gal­li­co called hock­ey “a fast con­tact game in which men strap knives to their feet and wield clubs.” Is it any won­der that peo­ple armed in this way injure each oth­er?

1. Head on ice

On Jan­u­ary 13, 1968, Min­neso­ta North Stars for­ward Bill Mas­ter­ton, in a match against the Oak­land Steels, was unable to escape the “box” in which oppos­ing defend­ers Lar­ry Kahan and Ron Har­ris took him. Some­one else’s stick blocked his skate, and Bill fell onto his back, hit­ting the back of his head on the ice (he was­n’t wear­ing a hel­met). After 30 hours, Mas­ter­ton was tak­en off the ven­ti­la­tor.

The fatal fact was that Mas­ter­ton also suf­fered a con­cus­sion at the pre­vi­ous game, but did not take sick leave. “If the brain has not yet ful­ly recov­ered from the pre­vi­ous injury, a new blow can cause instant swelling and death. That’s what hap­pened here,” stat­ed neu­ro­sur­geon Charles Tator.

2. Skate on the neck

By March 22, 1989, Clint Malarchuk had been defend­ing goal for the Buf­fa­lo Sabers for only 16 days; St. Louis Blues right winger Steve Tur­tle hit him in the neck with his skate dur­ing the col­li­sion. A cut vein, a 15 cm wound, an instant pool of blood on the ice — Malarchuk need­ed 300 stitch­es. That same sea­son he returned to the ice, but nev­er reached the same lev­el.

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Today, neck pro­tec­tion is manda­to­ry for goal­keep­ers and field play­ers under 18 years of age. Alas, the cap­tain of the Novokuznet­sk Met­al­lurg junior team, Alexan­der Orekhov (16 years old), who died sev­er­al years ago, ignored this rule — the puck hit him in the neck, caus­ing him to lose con­scious­ness and, falling, injur­ing his spine.

3. Puck in the eye

On March 5, 2013, in the New York Rangers game against the Philadel­phia Fly­ers, after a hit from Kim­mo Tim­o­nen, the puck hit the eye of Rangers defense­man Marc Staal, who was play­ing with­out a visor. It took two months to restore my vision. Start­ing next sea­son, the use of visors in the NHL became manda­to­ry.

Marc Staal

4. Elbow to the jaw

On April 14, 1999, future 2002 Olympic sil­ver medal­ist Jere­my Roenick broke his jaw and lost eight teeth in a col­li­sion with Der­ian Hatch­er. On Feb­ru­ary 12, 2004, his jaw was dam­aged again: a direct hit from a puck sent by our Boris Mironov, frac­tures in 19 places.

Wear­ing a hel­met with a full-face mask is manda­to­ry only for hock­ey play­ers under 18 years of age. Play­ers 18–20 years old can replace the mask with a visor, but in this case they must also use a mouth guard.

5. Hockey stick to the groin

On Octo­ber 8, Nick­las Lid­strom of the Detroit Red Wings was hit between the legs with a stick and (as it turned out lat­er) suf­fered a severe tes­tic­u­lar injury. A patient man, Lid­strom went home after the game, went to train­ing the next day, and only a day lat­er went to the hos­pi­tal, where he was imme­di­ate­ly sent to the oper­at­ing table in hor­ror. Wear­ing a shell is still not a manda­to­ry pro­tec­tive mea­sure.