The NHL has a long storied history of dirtbags, and Down Goes Brown wrote a delightful post for Grantland outlining the dirtbaggiest dirtbags, and their many transgressions. What a rich treasure trove of bad behaviour and ugly injuries! Thus was born a series of Quiet Room posts exploring the worst of the injuries handed out by the worst of the dirtbags in their most inglourious moments.
Ken “The Rat” Linseman
You know you’re a spectacular dirtbag when you’re nicknamed for a smelly, plague-carrying rodent. They say Linseman got the nickname because of his looks or his skating style, but they are Bruins or Flyers fans and they don’t like to admit that he was a filthy, filthy man. Linseman’s rattiest performance was likely the one that earned him a criminal conviction, and it was early in his career.
April 10th, 1977. Ottawa, Ontario. The OHA’s Kingston Canadians are visiting the Ottawa 67s for a playoff game. Kingston’s Ken Linseman and Ottawa’s Jeff Geiger have already fought, and while Geiger finds himself in the box, Linseman finds himself ejected.
At that point Linseman lost his mind and charged at the box, possibly with the intent of eating Geiger alive. That conjecture is based on the fact that when Geiger also lost his mind and came out of the box, Linseman bit him on the chin. Officials pulled the players apart, and Geiger fell to his knees with a linesman (not Linseman) clinging to his back. Linseman (not the linesman) seized the opportunity to kick him in the face, and Geiger seized the opportunity to (unsuccessfully) try to kick him back. Both players were ejected, and Linseman couldn’t resist running his mouth just outside the dressing room, bragging loudly about having kicked Geiger in the face. The bragging earned him criminal charges for assault causing bodily harm. That was the end of Linseman’s junior career as he moved to the WHA’s Birmingham Bulls the next year, then onward and upward through the ranks of the AHL and NHL, inflicting injuries and pissing people off along the way.
Geiger bled all over the ice, then had his forehead laceration repaired by the team dentist. A quick reminder that the human mouth is a filthy pit of nasty bacteria, and the human face bleeds like stink at the least provocation. While Geiger looked like something out of your worst nightmare thanks to several branches of the carotid artery, he only needed four stitches to close Linseman’s skate-print.
Assorted Linseman Funsies:
- In keeping with his nickname, in 1984 Linseman admitted to biting Edmonton’s Lee Fogolin on the cheek during a fight in his days as a member of the Boston Bruins. Great way to treat a former teammate. Nothing says “I miss you, man” like chomping on someone’s face. For his trouble Fogolin ended up with a tetanus shot, antibiotics, and a swollen face.
- While an Oiler, Linseman earned a four-game suspension after getting into a fight with Los Angeles’ Dean Kennedy under the stands after both had already received game misconducts. Kennedy ended up with nine stitches, and the police had to break up the fight.
- Montreal’s Chris Nilan was being escorted off the ice when he out-Linsemaned Linseman by taking a swing at him while he sat on the end of Boston’s bench (THE NERVE). A fight in the corridor ensued, and Linseman added to his repertoire of fights in areas other than on the actual ice.
In 1989, Linseman’s own body out-Linsemaned him by surprising him with the gift of thoracic outlet syndrome – the same issue that Bruin Adam McQuaid had surgery for in October of 2012. Linseman was out with a knee injury when his left arm started swelling – and wouldn’t stop. It turned out he had thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition where the nerves and blood vessels that supply the arm don’t have enough room between the clavicle and first rib. The upshot is that blood couldn’t drain out of Linseman’s arm properly, leaving him with one arm and one sausage. After much discussion, surgeons finally opted to remove his first rib.
You don’t really need a first rib, but you do need your nerves and blood vessels to have an unobstructed path in and out of your arm. You can get thoracic outlet syndrome for a variety of reasons – anything from a tumour to muscle spasm to bad posture to just being built funny. The fix is removing enough stuff from the area in question to give everything in there room to do its job. It’s a big deal, because there’s plenty of important stuff in the general neck/chest/arm area, and mucking around in there tends to have a fairly long recovery and rehab course. It does not, however, make you less of a rat. Obviously.
Many, many thanks to the wonderful Down Goes Brown for being funny, for pointing out so many dirtbags, and for being okay with me using his dirtbags for your entertainment. That last bit sounded awful and I’m sorry.