In the high-speed, high-intensity world of ice hockey, injuries are an unfortunate reality. Among the numerous injuries players endure, few incidents have left as indelible a mark on the sport as the harrowing neck injury suffered by Buffalo Sabres goaltender Clint Malarchuk. This incident is not only one of the most shocking in NHL history but also serves as a stark reminder of the dangers inherent in the game.

The Incident

On March 22, 1989, during a game between the Buffalo Sabres and the St. Louis Blues, Clint Malarchuk experienced a moment that would forever change his life and career. In the midst of a play, Blues forward Steve Tuttle collided with Sabres defenseman Uwe Krupp, causing Tuttle’s skate blade to inadvertently strike Malarchuk’s neck. The blade severed Malarchuk’s jugular vein, leading to a profuse loss of blood on the ice.

Immediate Response

The scene was nothing short of chaotic and terrifying. Blood poured from Malarchuk’s neck, creating a gruesome sight that left fans, players, and officials in shock. However, the quick-thinking actions of the Sabres’ medical team and, in particular, the team’s athletic trainer, Jim Pizzutelli, were crucial. Pizzutelli, a former combat medic in the Vietnam War, applied pressure to the wound, stemming the blood flow and saving Malarchuk’s life. His immediate response and ability to stay calm under pressure played a pivotal role in ensuring Malarchuk survived the incident.

The Aftermath

Clint Malarchuk was rushed to the hospital, where he received over 300 stitches to close the wound. Remarkably, he was back on the ice just ten days later, a testament to his resilience and dedication to the sport. However, the psychological impact of the injury lingered. Malarchuk later struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, issues he has openly discussed in an effort to raise awareness about mental health.

Safety Measures

The incident led to increased awareness about player safety, particularly regarding neck protection. Today, neck guards are commonly used in youth and amateur hockey leagues, although they remain optional in the NHL. Malarchuk’s injury underscored the need for ongoing discussions about protective gear and the importance of prioritizing player safety in the fast-paced game of ice hockey.

Clint Malarchuk’s Legacy

Clint Malarchuk’s career continued after the injury, but his legacy is profoundly shaped by that fateful day in 1989. He has since become an advocate for mental health, sharing his experiences in his autobiography, “The Crazy Game: How I Survived in the Crease and Beyond.” His story is one of survival, resilience, and advocacy, offering hope and inspiration to others facing similar challenges.


The story of Clint Malarchuk is a poignant reminder of the physical dangers present in ice hockey and the critical importance of immediate medical intervention. It also highlights the mental health struggles athletes may face after traumatic events. As we reflect on this harrowing incident, we honor Malarchuk’s courage and resilience, acknowledging the lessons learned in the pursuit of making ice hockey a safer sport for all.