Monday, November 24th, 2014

Skate blade injuries threaten to cut NHL players careers short

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Ice hockey is unquestionably one of the fastest and toughest games in the world, and while most players are tough as nails a few have been literally cut down by injury lately due to severe lacerations suffered by skate blades. Injuries are on the rise because skate blades are sharper than ever these days and the game is played at such a fast pace with a lot of physical contact, meaning bodies are flying all over the place.

There have been some horrific injuries in the past with former Toronto Maple Leaf all-star Borje Salming needing hundreds of stitches in his face after it was accidentally stepped on by an opponent. Former Buffalo Sabre goaltender Clint Malarchuk almost bled to death on the ice after a main artery in his throat was sliced open by an errant skate.

Other players such as Adam Burish and Richard Zednik have had their necks cut open and several players have suffered from cut tendons. There was also an incident in a minor league in which a goaltender’s fingers were sliced off after a player skated over his glove.

Several players have suffered injuries from skate cuts over the past couple of seasons, with Toronto Maple Leaf captain Dion Phaneuf missing 16 games this year after receiving a deep cut in his upper leg and Mike Modano of the Detroit Red Wings had a wrist tendon cut by a skate. Modano will be out for about three months and his career may even be in jeopardy.

One of the worst ever skate injuries took place in February of 2008, when veteran linesman Pat Dapuzzo’s career ended in a split second when a skate blade basically cut off his nose after a player’s skate came up and hit him after being body checked. Dapuzzo suffered 10 fractures in his face and lost all his teeth die to the incident and consequent surgeries. He lost his sense of smell, some of his sense of taste and suffered from depression.

One train of thought on the rash of skate blade injuries to players’ feet is because of the new lightweight types of skates that players wear. They may be lighter, but don’t offer much in the way of protection. Players’ socks are also a lot lighter these days and blades seem to be cutting right through them like a hot knife through butter.

Dapuzzo wasn’t wearing a visor at the time of his accident and neither were several other players. However, it’s thought some of them may still have been cut to the neck area even if they were wearing a face shield. The NHL may want to reconsider their stand on not making visors mandatory though as eye injuries have also cost some players their careers.

Players are required to wear neck guards in children’s hockey and we may see NHL players other than goalies wearing them soon too, before one of them pays the ultimate price on the ice from a skate blade injury.

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