Skating around the ice at high speeds, armed with a hockey stick and some protective equipment, doing your best to avoid stray pucks and overenthusiastic opposition, the opportunity for injury is aplenty. Zdeno Chara famously had a particularly nasty jaw injury, how did it happen?
Zdeno Chara had his jaw broken when it was struck by a puck, from a shot fired by St. Louis Blues center Brayden Schenn. The injury occurred during Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals.
It’s a dangerous sport, and anything can happen. In the case of Chara, it was almost the worst-case scenario, as the wandering puck did a severe amount of damage to his jaw, breaking it in two places and forcing him into an extended recovery period.
If it had happened a little earlier, there may have been time to adapt or improvise a strategy that compensated for the loss of a player as important as Chara to the team. Unfortunately, however, the timing of the injury proved to be an instrumental factor in the derailment of the success the team had been having.
Almost immediately the severity of the injury made itself apparent, as Chara dropped to his knees in pain, paralyzed there for a moment before being helped to his feet. Fair warning if you’re squeamish, there’s a bit of blood in the below clip.
The offending shot was fired off by Brayden Schenn, the center for the St. Louis Blues, and although the puck might not have found its intended destination, the place that it landed instead was even more effective.
Chara was rushed to the locker room almost immediately, leaving behind a trail of blood from the bone-shattering injury that his jaw had sustained. Not only was his jaw broken, but it was also broken in two different places on both sides of his face, with the right side being fractured into two different parts.
Chara, possessing the kind of leadership that you expect of a team captain, remained on the bench for the rest of the game instead of immediately seeking medical attention. He even managed to participate in the games following his injury, continuing on for the sake of his team despite the severity of the injury.
The story wouldn’t have the ending that they desired, however, and despite putting in a valiant effort to try and secure the victory, they were eventually defeated, losing the Stanley Cup.
Regardless of the result, Chara’s stock definitely rose, as everyone from the fans to his teammates gained an enormous amount of respect for the tougher-than-nails captain of the Boston Bruins.
Although the injury and the pain that Chara had to go through, and even play through, was no doubt severe, it’s far from the worst that can befall you on the rinks. Concussions especially are an all too common injury, what with how fast-paced and violent the sport can be in the throes of an intense game.
Concussions and the like can be unbelievably detrimental to the career of any sportsperson. The cartoons that we grew up with would have you believe that you’ll end up with a comically large bump on your head, or that you’ll see birds flying around your head, but in reality, all you’ll be left with is a suspension from competition.
Trauma to the brain or broken bones like what Chara, while terrible, typically won’t be life-threatening. When it comes to life-threatening in the NHL, there’s been more than a few disastrous moments that have resulted in near-death experiences for the players.
It Could Have Been Worse
One example of how extreme the potential for injury can be is what happened to Richard Zednik in 2008.
In a freakishly unlucky chain of collisions and falls, Zednik ended up on the wrong end of the razor-sharp blade of an ice skate. The skate sliced into his neck, leaving Zednik to skate to safety leaving a sea of red in his wake.
Despite the fact an artery had been cut by the skate, it wasn’t life-threatening and emergency surgery was able to patch him up. Unlike with Chara’s injury though, he wouldn’t be playing the rest of the season.
Like with any fast-paced, highly competitive sport with a huge demand for athleticism, absolutely anything can happen. Even if you’ve just had your jaw broken in two places, there’s always a way you could have been unluckier.