Everyone in Vancouver had a case of the sads in mid-January when Henrik Sedin’s ironman streak ended. After 679 games (not counting playoffs), it was a case of not very impressive-sounding bruised ribs that shut him down. The good news is that he’s back to full practice, and should be back soon to start a new streak.
There aren’t a whole lot of ironmen in the NHL at all, let alone currently, and the injuries that end streaks aren’t always the world-ending massive traumatic disasters that you might expect. And then again, sometimes they are.
Martin St Louis – 499 Games
St Louis is an Olympian, Stanley Cup winner, multiple Lady Byng and Art Ross trophy winner, and he has incredible legs. He was also one game away from hitting the 500 mark in December 2011 when he accidentally broke his face in practice. An errant puck off the stick of teammate Dominic Moore hit St Louis near the left eye, resulting in broken facial bones. Those fractures proved to be the least of St Louis’ worries as he left the arena in an ambulance, and spent the night in a New York City hospital. St Louis’ eye was swollen shut, and he was having vision problems. He had what’s been described as a blood clot in his eye, and was on eye drops and strict rest until the swelling (and clot) dissipated. Marty’s injury was most likely a hyphema – a nasty-looking collection of blood in the anterior chamber of the eye, which is the space between the cornea (the outside of your eye) and the iris (the pretty coloured part).
When a puck hits you in the eye, your eyeball is briefly deformed. That’s enough to injure tiny blood vessels, and cause blood to leak into places it’s not supposed to be. Putting blood in a small space that’s not used to accomodating any extras can cause elevated pressure in the eye, which can put pressure on the optic nerve, and cause vision deficits. The solution is to avoid elevating the pressure in the eye at all costs, which generally means bed rest, and a variety of eye drops (including steroid drops to reduce inflammation). Somehow St Louis only missed five games, and finally got on board with Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman’s request that his players wear visors. The scars above his left eye have left a reminder that his eye injury could have ended both his streak and his career.
Mark Recchi – 570 Games
Before he found the time to go to medical school to become a concussion/vertebral fracture specialist, Mark Recchi was playing for the Montreal Canadiens, and in December 1998 he was terrible. He was slow, he hadn’t scored in a month, and he finally gave up and broke his own streak. He’d been sick for a few weeks – weak, losing weight, generally feeling terrible. Recchi had pneumonia, and much like concussions and broken necks, pneumonia is a bitch to play through.
Rod Brind’amour – 484 Games
Brind’Amour’s streak ended slowly, and in several stages. He initially injured his foot in a preseason game against the Devils in September of 1999. Although he finished the game, an x-ray showed a fracture of the third metatarsal bone (the foot part of the bones of the middle toe), and it was estimated that he’d be out for a few weeks. Brind’Amour started skating on schedule two weeks after the injury, but was still having intense pain, and was placed in a hard cast. A few weeks later another x-ray showed a second fracture that hadn’t been present on the initial films. Problematically, the fracture was unstable, meaning that despite being casted the bone fragments were moving. Brind’Amour insisted the fracture must have been there from the initial injury, as he couldn’t recall hurting himself again. Team physicians insisted it was a whole new injury based on the appearance of the x-rays. The only solution was surgery to put two pins into the bones to hold them in place. Brind’Amour was out for an additional two months, returning just before Christmas.
Doug Jarvis – 964 Games
Jarvis is the all-time NHL Ironman champion with 964 games spread among the Montreal Canadiens, Washington Capitals, and Hartford Whalers. There was no streak-ending injury for Jarvis – he retired never having missed a game. He’s now an assistant coach with the Bruins, and never went to medical school.
Around the league…
Steven Stamkos has moved on to light contact drills in his trip back from an ugly leg fracture in November, but he’s still an unknown quantity as far as the Canadian Olympic team goes. Nobody is committing to him playing or not playing, mostly because broken legs aren’t exactly predictable. If he’s not ready does Martin St Louis get to go? Pleeeeeeeeease???
Dallas’ Stéphane Robidas, who also broke his leg, is back skating. He’s also a good thirteen years older than Steven Stamkos, which makes the fact that he’s already skating super impressive.
Toronto’s Peter Holland missed the latest installation of the Battle of Ontario with a nasty case of lace bite. In case you’ve never had it, you should know that lace bite is really, really awful. It’s inflammation of tendons on the top of the foot caused by skates that are new, or too tight, or laced funny, or any one of several other unfortunate issues. The extensor hallucis longus is usually the culprit – and since it runs from the front of the lower leg down to the big toe and is involved with several important ankle motions and moving the big toe, having inflammation in it is a great way to feel too crappy to skate. Every foot motion hurts. Walking, skating, bending your ankle, wiggling your big toe. It all sucks. The solution, in addition to solving the skate issue that caused it, is rest and anti-inflammatories. Holland should be back soon. His new skates may not.