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Ex-goalie knows skates can kill

Malarchuk recalls his terrifying throat cut

If his teammates and on-site medical personnel hadn't acted so quickly when blood began spurting from his right thigh, Winnipeg Jets defenceman Zach Redmond could have been in a world of trouble.

"If you just left it, that is a very serious and life-threatening injury," said Dr. Greg Harding, a vascular surgeon at Health Sciences Centre.

Calgary Flames goalie coach Clint Malarchuk had a skate sever his carotid artery in a 1989 game.


Calgary Flames goalie coach Clint Malarchuk had a skate sever his carotid artery in a 1989 game.

Redmond was taking part in some extra drills following the morning skate before the Jets' game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday when he fell on his back and Antti Miettinen's skate blade sliced through his right femoral artery and vein.

Redmond was rushed to hospital, where he underwent three hours of surgery, and is now resting comfortably. The rookie's season, however, is over.

"You can bleed (to death) from that, but with first aid at the site, it's not usually life-threatening. The artery in the thigh is just as big as one going to your head," Harding said.

When hockey fans hear of an injury involving a skate blade, it's difficult not to have flashbacks of Clint Malarchuk grabbing his throat as blood spurted through his fingers nearly a quarter-century ago.

The former Buffalo Sabres goaltender was cut by the skate of Steve Tuttle of the St. Louis Blues during a game on March 22, 1989, severing his carotid artery.

As difficult as that was to watch on television, it was even worse in person. Eleven fans fainted, two suffered heart attacks and three players vomited on the ice.

"When I saw the blood pouring out of my throat, I thought I was going to die," said Malarchuk, now an assistant coach with the Calgary Flames. "You go into shock."

Malarchuk has become the poster child for skate-related injuries and he has made himself available whenever one happens. For example, he spoke with Florida Panthers forward Richard Zednick after now-Jets forward Olli Jokinen's skate cut him in the throat in 2008.

He also planned to call a junior player from Minnesota whose neck was cut by a skate earlier this week, and he passed on his phone number to the Jets organization if Redmond wanted to talk to him.

"The biggest thing is you have to deal mentally with the trauma. It may take a little bit of counselling. I didn't get that. We should have had counselling in those days," Malarchuk said, noting he was back on the ice 10 days after his accident.

Despite the fact millions of Canadians play hockey and are skating at top speed with the equivalent of knives on their feet, this type of injury is extremely rare.

"I've been doing this for eight years and I've never seen one from a skate. We see gashes from gunshots and knives," Harding said. "The equipment is so good now, it takes the perfect storm of a person falling down and you get a skate at the right angle. (Redmond's) equipment must have gone up in the right area where somebody's skate could cut right through it."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 23, 2013 A7

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