The Top Five freak injuries to goalies in hockey history

One of the NHL’s top young offensive forwards inadvertently jabs his stick into the eye of an emerging American star. Does that sound horribly familiar? It’s what happened when Marian Hossa’s follow-through clipped Bryan Berard in an Ottawa Senators-New York Islanders game on March 11, 2000. It’s also what happened when Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby had his stick lifted by Islanders defenseman Radek Martinek and saw the blade poke through goalie Rick DiPietro’s cage during New York’s 3-2 win on Saturday.

Fortunately, it appears that DiPietro’s injury is less serious than that of Berard, who endured multiple eye surgeries and missed an entire season before returning to the NHL in 2001. But who could have guessed that a goalie with a modern protective mask would be susceptible to this sort of thing? (Especially in an era where guys like Roman Cechmanek have been known to deliberately block shots with their faces.) It’s the very definition of a freak injury.

Of course, masks aren’t foolproof, as Dallas-area dentist Dr. Michael Eeds discovered during a 2004 rec hockey game. When a slapshot hit the 57-year-old’s mask, the puck seriously dented the cage. Eeds, who lost sight in his right eye as a result, sued the manufacturers.

But as you’ll see from the following list of the Top Five freak injuries to goalies in hockey history, no body part is safe when it comes to this position–on or off the ice.

1) Clint Malarchuk: March 11, 1989

To most NHL fans, this story is so familiar and gruesome that it doesn’t require much elaboration. Playing for Buffalo, Malarchuk had his jugular vein slashed by the skate of Steve Tuttle when Sabres defenseman Uwe Krupp tripped the St. Louis forward in front of the net. Malarchuk lost copious amounts of blood from the six-inch cut on his throat, and escaped with his life after doctors gave him more than 300 stitches. Amazingly, the 27-year-old was back in action on April 2.

Years later, the incident spawned one of the tackiest pieces of hockey memorabilia ever: a plastic figurine depicting Malarchuk’s life-threatening moment, put up for sale on eBay. Today, Malarchuk serves as the goaltending consultant for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

2) Arturs Irbe: July 1994

The diminutive Latvian netminder had just led his San Jose Sharks to what was then the longest playoff run in franchise history (a seven-game upset of the Detroit Red Wings, followed by a seven-game defeat versus Toronto). If there was any justice, Irbe should have been able to relax and enjoy the summer. But instead, he had a run-in with Rambo. No, Irbe didn’t get into a bar brawl with Sylvester Stallone. Rambo was the name of Irbe’s dog. The Labrador-Newfoundland mix bit the goalie’s left hand, resulting in nerve damage, a broken finger, and a severed artery. The dog was put to sleep afterwards.

Although Irbe had plenty of time to recover due to the ensuing NHL lockout, he struggled to find his game in 1995, and wound up signing with Dallas as a free agent the following year. However, his finest hour was yet to come, as he backstopped Carolina to the 2002 Stanley Cup finals versus Detroit. Irbe was last spotted playing in his native Baltic country, and he worked out with Boston Bruins prospect Martins Karsums in the off-season.

3) Joe Exter: March 8, 2003

How many million times have you watched a goalie racing a forward for a loose puck, sometimes even diving perilously to get there first? And how rare is it for either party to suffer a serious injury in that scenario? Joe Exter experienced the equivalent of getting struck by lightning when the Merrimack goalie collided with Boston College’s Patrick Eaves with about six minutes left in an NCAA game. The left knee of Eaves struck Exter full force in the head, and the goalie hit his head on the ice as his mask came off. The 24-year-old Rhode Island native was left unconscious and bleeding from both ears, and lay in a coma for 10 days with a fractured skull.

When Exter revived, he said the incident was simply a hockey play, refusing to blame Eaves (who, coincidentally, would suffer a high-profile head injury of his own with the Ottawa Senators when Pittsburgh’s Colby Armstrong nailed him during a 2007 first-round playoff game). Doctors predicted Exter would never play again, but he managed to suit up for two seasons with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers. In August 2007, he was named the first-ever full-time goalie coach with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.

4) John Vanbiesbrouck: June 12, 1988

Most NHL goalies would love to retire with a Vezina Trophy and First All-Star team selection on their resumes, but they’d rather not be forced to quit at age 25. That’s the scenario that Vanbiesbrouck almost had to confront two summers after achieving the aforementioned honors with the New York Rangers. He was sitting on a glass coffee table, tinkering with a video camera he planned to use to film the birth of his first child a couple of days later. When he tried to get up, the coffee table collapsed underneath him and he sliced his left wrist, incurring nerve damage and three lacerated tendons. Doctors performed five hours of microsurgery on him. Happily, it turned out not to be career-threatening. Vanbiesbrouck was in uniform on October 6 for New York’s season opener.

In addition to Canada Cup and Olympic appearances, Vanbiesbrouck was part of two runs to the Stanley Cup finals, backstopping the Florida Panthers in 1996 and backing up New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur in 2001. He remains the winningest US-born NHL goalie of all time (374 wins). He was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame in October, and currently works as an NHL TV commentator on Versus and HDNet.

5) Rich Parent: February 13, 1999

Al MacInnis played 23 NHL seasons, and even before the Nova Scotia-born defenseman became a Hall of Fame candidate, he was known and feared for consistently delivering the NHL’s hardest slapshot at close to 100 mph. Apparently he didn’t ease up too much against his own teammates, either. With the St. Louis Blues, MacInnis unleashed a drive that hit goalie Rich Parent in precisely the wrong place during the warm-up prior to a game versus Edmonton. Parent underwent emergency surgery after suffering a “scrotal contusion and ruptured testicle.” He missed 11 games.

After brief stints with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh the following two seasons, the Montreal native finished his playing career in the German League. Today, at age 34, Parent operates a “wealth developing company” called RR Wealth Streams with his wife Rena. This concluding family photo should dispel any concerns readers might have about whether Parent’s injury impacted his future prospects as a father. Digg it Furl iFeedReaders Netscape RawSugar reddit StumbleUpon Yahoo MyWeb YardBarker

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