Rugged Stories from Hockey History

Hockey Strong tells of injuries and hardships on and off the ice

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Minneapolis writer Todd Smith’s new book Hockey Strong tells of injuries, hardships, and the general tough-guy ethos on and off the ice. Here are five rugged stories from hockey history.

1. Taking the fight to the fans
The movie Slap Shot famously featured three thick-glasses-wearing, hard-brawling brothers who at one point charge into the stands to fight with the crowd. Turns out the scene was based on a real-life brawl in Utica, NY starring the Carlson brothers from Virginia, MN.

2. The playoffs are a war
Describing the toll of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Smith writes, “It was revealed that in addition to the massive cut on his nose, torn cartilage in his abdomen, broken rib, and separated shoulder, Bergeron was also playing with a collapsed lung.”

3. Hockey motivation isn’t pretty
St. Paul’s Rob McClanahan, a player on the 1980 Olympic “Miracle on Ice” team that upset the Soviet Union, left a game against Sweden with a severe contusion. Coach Herb Brooks followed him—not to check on his wellbeing, but to administer some hockey-style motivation. “McClanahan lay on a bench in the corner, undressed, and his leg wrapped in ice,” writes Smith. “In an instant, Brooks ripped into him.”

4. If you can stand, you skate
In a 1996 playoff game, Detroit Red Wings center Kris Draper was driven into a sideboard. He broke his nose, jaw, cheek, lost a row of teeth, and suffered a variety of cuts. When he regained consciousness, he started to put his pads back on to re-enter the game. This sounds insane, Smith admits, “But Kris Draper was a hockey player and that is what hockey players do. They carry on.”

5. The hardest trials aren’t physical
The Minnesota Wild’s Zach Parise is a tough guy who has endured, among other gruesome injuries, the loss of a tooth and a mid-game root canal. Smith tells the story of the most difficult hardship Parise faced: the death of his hockey-vet father, J.P. “I’d go out for practice and be in a haze,” Parise says. “I remember a couple times almost breaking down and start crying on the ice.”