Clint Malarchuck neck injury

Clint Malarchuck neck injury

During a game on March 22, 1989, between the visiting St. Louis Blues and Malarchuk’s Buffalo Sabres, Steve Tuttle of the Blues and Uwe Krupp of the Sabres became entangled while chasing the puck and crashed hard into the Buffalo goal, taking Malarchuk down with them. As Tuttle and Krupp came down on him, Tuttle’s skate blade hit Malarchuk’s neck and severed his carotid artery.

With blood spurting from Malarchuk’s throat onto the ice, he was able to leave the ice on his own feet with the assistance of his team’s athletic trainer, Jim Pizzutelli. Many spectators were physically sickened by the sight. There were reports that eleven fans fainted, two more suffered heart attacks and three players vomited on the ice. Local television cameras covering the game cut away from the sight of Malarchuk bleeding after noticing what had happened, and Sabres announcers Ted Darling and Mike Robitaille were audibly shaken. At the production room of the national cable sports highlight show, a producer scrolled his tape back to show the event to two other producers, who both started screaming.

Malarchuk, meanwhile, believed he was going to die. “All I wanted to do was get off the ice”, said Malarchuk. “My mother was watching the game on TV, and I didn’t want her to see me die.” Aware that his mother had been watching the game on TV, he had an equipment manager call and tell her he loved her. Then he asked for a priest.

Malarchuk’s life was saved due to quick action by the team’s athletic trainer, Jim Pizzutelli, a former Army medic who served in Vietnam. He reached into Malarchuk’s neck and pinched off the blood vessel, not letting go until doctors arrived to begin stabilizing the wound. The team doctor then applied extreme pressure by kneeling on his collarbone—a procedure designed to produce a low breathing rate and low metabolic state, which is preferable to exsanguination. Previous reports have suggested doctors worked for hours to save Malarchuk’s life, however this is an overestimate. He was conscious and talking on the way to the hospital. (He asked paramedics if they could bring him back in time for the third period.). The game resumed when league personnel received word that the player was in stable condition.

Still, Malarchuk came within minutes of becoming the second fatality as a result from an on-ice injury in NHL history after Bill Masterton (1968). It was estimated that if the skate had hit 1/8 inch (3 mm) higher on Malarchuk’s carotid, he would have been dead within two minutes. He lost 1/3 of the blood in his body. It took doctors a total of 300 stitches to close the wound. It was also said that had the incident occurred at the other end of the ice, Malarchuk may have died because of the extra time it would have taken to reach the medical room. The Buffalo Memorial Auditorium had the locker room exits at one end of the ice instead of the location behind the benches, and he was at that end.

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