NHL Careers Ended by Concussions
The rugged Flyers defenseman, an 18-year NHL veteran, five-time All-Star, and winner of the Hart and Norris trophies in 2000 took a stick to the eye during a game against Toronto on October 24, 2011. After sitting out six games, he returned and was hit hard into the boards in Phoenix. Trying to play two nights later in Winnipeg, he had to leave due to concussion symptoms and has not played since. With his NHL career likely over, Pronger spoke to SI.com's Brian Cazeneuve about his physical and emotional ordeal. You can watch the video by CLICKING HERE Here are 17 more notable cases of NHL careers cut short by head injuries.
The Bruins center had suffered concussions before he was wheeled off the ice after a hard blindside hit by Matt Cooke of the Penguins on March 7, 2010. He returned for the playoffs, but during the summer experienced headaches, depression, memory loss and fatigue, and was unable to play again until Dec. 2, 2010. A hit by Colorado's Matt Hunwick the following January likely ended his career. A year later, Savard told ESPN he was still having daily symptoms. "I'm still hoping that something happens that I'll feel a lot better," he said. "But if I feel like this, I still couldn't play." Savard, 35, has yet to play again and likely won't. If he retires, he'll forfeit his $4 million yearly salary that runs through 2016-17. "For the fans that keep asking me, there is no comeback in the foreseeable future," he tweeted in October 2012. "I miss the game. It has given me everything I have today."
Eric and Brett Lindros
Eric Lindros won the 1995 Hart Trophy as NHL MVP and led the Flyers to the 1997 Stanley Cup Final, but his career was diminished and ended by eight concussions that began in 1998. He suffered four during 1999-2000, one on a hit by Devils defenseman Scott Stevens in the playoffs. His health and criticism of the Flyers' medical staff became a source of friction with GM Bobby Clarke. After sitting out 2000-01, Lindros was traded to the Rangers and later retired in November 2007 after stops in Toronto and Dallas. Younger brother Brett was a first-round pick by the Islanders in 1994. He retired in 1996 at age 20 after his third concussion -- two within eight days. "What was scary for me was each time it took longer to resolve -- my last concussion before my 20th birthday took eight or nine weeks," he told The New York Times . "Sometimes I had memory loss on the bench."
The center's Hall of Fame career was ended by the effects of six concussions sustained during his 15 seasons in the NHL. The first occurred as an Islander in a 1990 playoff game when he was knocked unconscious by a hit from the Rangers' James Patrick, the last when he collided with Mike Keane in March 1998. He also missed almost the entire 1996-97 season after hitting his head on the ice and being knocked out by a hard check from Francois Leroux of the Penguins. LaFontaine, who scored 468 career goals, was only 33 when he played his last NHL game. "A neurologist at the Mayo Clinic asked me, 'Did it feel like someone came along and ripped all the motivation and personality out of you?' That was exactly what happened to me," LaFontaine told The Sporting News . "I remember being scared because for the first month after my fifth concussion, I was very depressed at times. I wouldn't want to come out of my room. My wife was really scared because the littlest things would set me off."
The bruising Hall of Fame defenseman who delivered notorious bone-rattling hits on Eric Lindros, Paul Kariya, Slava Kozlov and Ron Francis was concussed when hit in the head by a Pavel Kubina slap shot during the 2003 playoffs. Stevens played through the symptoms en route to winning the Stanley Cup with the Devils that spring, but had to retire in January 2004 due to post-concussion syndrome.
The goaltender, who backstopped the Rangers' 1993-94 Stanley Cup championship team and is now in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, suffered two concussions in the space of eight months -- one caused by a shot to the mask, the other by a knee to the head -- and had to retire in September 2003, before the start of his 15th NHL season. Richter, who was almost 37 at the time, wanted to keep playing.
The pugnacious, undersized winger played 13 seasons in the NHL with seven teams and was beloved for his scrappiness and willingness to drop the gloves. While playing for the Dallas Stars in January 2007, Barnaby was concussed during a fight with Josh Gratton of the Phoenix Coyotes and missed the rest of the season. Effects, including temporary loss of vision in his left eye, led him to retire in July of that year.
The 220-pound power forward, a three-time 30-goal scorer, played 14 seasons in the NHL and suffered four concussions. The first, in 2003-04, caused him to miss 21 games and he sustained two more blows to the head in the playoffs that season. After resting during the 2004-05 lockout, he returned for only nine games before a hit to the head by Montreal's Alex Perezhogin caused him to miss the rest of the season and ultimately retire. Still suffering effects as of March 2011, Primeau will donate his brain to Boston University's research effort into the causes of the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in athletes.
During his first full season in the NHL, the Avalanche forward's career was ended by the fractured neck and concussion he suffered after being viciously blindsided by Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks in 2004. Three years later, Moore was still suffering post-concussion symptoms while he trained with hope of returning to the NHL. His older brother, Mark, a seventh-round pick by the Penguins in 1997, had his career ended by a concussion before he reached the NHL.
The feared enforcer known as the Grim Reaper fought more than 200 bouts during his 13 years in the NHL and needed surgery to reconstruct his cheek after an early-career battle with Dave Brown of the Flyers. Grimson suffered from post-concussion symptoms during his final season and was knocked out of the league for good by a fight with Georges Laraque of the Oilers in December 2001. He sat out the next season, and when his symptoms remained, retired in June 2003.
The scrappy winger, drafted 14th overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1993, played eight seasons in the NHL for three teams. He was seriously concussed during a fight with Ed Jovanovski of the Canucks in November 2000. Two years later, Deadmarsh was accidentally kneed in the head by a Kings teammate during practice and suffered from headaches and dizziness until his retirement in 2005. "I've kind of been holding on and hoping and praying that I'd recover from this concussion issue that I have and I haven't been able to do that," he told The Canadian Press . "It's one of the most frustrating injuries I think you could possibly have from a sports aspect. Unless you have concussions, it's kind of hard to explain to someone what it feels like, but you know it's something that's not supposed to be there."
The 6-5, 230-pound, hard-hitting defenseman who played 13 seasons for the Oilers and Rangers, winning four Stanley Cups, suffered more than six concussions, including one when he was sucker-punched from behind by Matt Johnson of the Kings in November 1998. (Johnson was suspended 12 games for the hit.) Three months later, Beukeboom was concussed again by a seemingly minor hit in a game against Carolina. The injury left him with headaches and trouble concentrating. He never played again.
Seventeen months after being knocked out by a hit from Shane Doan of the Coyotes in 2000, the veteran Czech defenseman decided to retire because his concussion symptoms were still present. Svoboda had played nearly 17 seasons for four NHL teams, winning the Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1986.
The older brother of Russ Courtnall, Geoff was a speedy playmaker with a physical streak who was undrafted but signed by the Bruins in 1983. He went on to score 799 points in 1,048 games during 17 seasons in the NHL, a career that included winning the Stanley Cup with the Oilers in 1988. While skating for the Blues, he was severely concussed in a game against the Sharks on November 27, 1998, but returned in time for the playoffs. Risking permanent injury, he decided to play another season. An unpenalized elbow to the chin by Bryan Berard of the Maple Leafs in October 1999 produced a Grade 2 concussion (on a scale of 3) that ended Courtnall's career. (Berard was suspended two games for the hit.)
The former defenseman, a first-round pick (13th overall) by the Islanders in 1987, suffered a mind-bending total of 13 concussions during his nine-year NHL career. "The only thing I would do differently is wear a better helmet, but at the time they hadn't made the advances they have today," he told Hockeyzoneplus. "One doctor told me I could probably keep playing but I would have to change my game, less contact, no fighting, but due to lingering symptoms it was not possible. I wouldn't have wanted to play any other way than the way I played."
After parts of eight seasons with the Islanders, the oft-injured defenseman retired in 1997 due to the effects of three concussions, the first suffered in early in the 1995-96 season when he was hit from behind by Eric Lacroix of the Kings. "Riding in that ambulance, I thought my head was going to explode," he told Newsday after one instance. Against the advice of doctors, Vaske tried to make a comeback with Boston for 1998-99 but played in only three games before hanging up his gear for good.
Kypreos, a grinding winger, played eight seasons in the NHL, suffering multiple concussions before his career was ended by one sustained in a fight with Ryan Vandenbussche of the Rangers during the 1997-98 preseason. ( CLICK HERE for video. "I lost my helmet and hit my head on the ice," Kypreos told Hockey Canada. "It's like a dream you can't remember. Within one hour everything started to come back into focus. I was being asked how I was feeling and if I could go back on the ice to finish the game."
A tough winger who made an instant impression by fighting notorious enforcers Stu Grimson and Dave Manson in his NHL debut, Odjick's 12-year career with Canucks, Islanders, Flyers and Canadiens was ended in freakish fashion during a scrimmage in the summer of 2002 when a puck deflected off a goalpost and struck him in the back of the head. Persistent dizziness and headaches forced him to retire before he could play another season.