POSTING BY JB MADDAWG
It’s hard to believe its been 23 years. On March 22, 1989, the sporting world, and more specifically pro hockey held it’s breath. That day would forever be etched in the minds of fans that thought they would be watching a run of the mill hockey game. In the end, a man’s life would hang in the balance and would once again bring up safety concerns in the sport.
Clint Malarchuk was an NHL goalie that played for the Buffalo Sabres and was slated to net mind the goal in the hockey game in Buffalo, just like several other occasions. Things were pretty uneventful until St. Louis Blues player Steve Tuttle and Malarchuk’s teammate, Uwe Krupp became entangled while next to the net. There was some contact and appeared like a normal hockey collision, until Malarchuk dropped to his knees.
Throwing off his goalie mask, it would only take moments for everyone in the arena and watching the game on television to see that something was horribly, horribly wrong. Tuttle’s skate had actually severed Malarchuk’s carotid artery. Hand around his neck, Malarchuk and everyone else would watch in horror as the player would begin to lose an enormous amount of blood on the arena ice. Later estimates would show that Malarchuk had roughly around two minutes until he would have died as a result of the injury.
“As my heart would beat, it would squirt. I thought I was dying then, I really did. I knew it was my jugular vein and I thought I didn’t have long to live,” Malarchuk would recall later.
Luckily, there were two things that were in Malarchuk’s favor as the scene played out. The first, was the Buffalo Sabre’s trainer, Jim Pizzutelli. A former Army medic in Viet Nam, “Pizza” as he was called, immediately saw what had happened and reacted without hesitation. Pizzutelli reached into the wound, and pinched off the artery to stop the blood loss. His actions are the main reason that Clint Malarchuk survived the devastating injury.
The second thing that helped Malarchuk was the fact that in the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, there was only one exit back to the locker rooms. At the opposite end of the ice, players would have to work their way back through the arena floor to get to the area where the locker rooms were, and Malarchuk, just happened to be playing at the end of the arena closest to the door. As a result, Malarchuk and Pizzutelli would rush into the locker room, with Pizzutelli still holding the wound. Malarchuk fearing for his life, would ask that someone call his mother that was watching the game on television, and tell her he loved her. Malarchuk then requested a priest be present.
Malarchuk was rushed to the hospital were they would put over 300 stitches in to close the wound. Two days later, on March 24th, Malarchuk would walk back near the site of the incident, where fans in the Auditorium would give him a two-minute ovation. There was only a week of regular season play left in the season, but Malarchuk refused to call it over for the season, as doctors recommended. He would take the ice as the goaltender for the April 2nd finale.
Clint Malarchuk is now in his early 50’s, and is a coach for the Calgary Flames. His private life has had rough patches and problems, but the important thing is, he survived. The injury has always had terms such as “freak accident” attached to it, and although there are neck guards available, many players choose not to wear them.
19 years later, Richard Zednik of the Florida Panthers had almost the same neck injury, oddly enough, playing the Buffalo Sabres. The NHL still has no mandatory neck guard rule.
I have included the original on air broadcast of the game where Clint Malarchuk’s injury occurred. I cannot warn strongly enough, this video is extremely graphic. Please be advised, to watch at your own risk.