January 19, 2008

Remembering Bill Masterton

It has been a very busy week here at Greatest Hockey Legends.com. The site traffic this week is the busiest in site history. What makes it even more satisfying is I had no real link-love from the other big bloggers this week. All the traffic is from search engine referrers and returning visitors. Thank god for my loyal readers. I've always said that I might not have the highest traffic numbers among hockey's big bloggers, but I'd bet I have one of the highest percentages of regular readers!

It's been a real fun week this week. Biography wise we added Brian Leetch, Andy Bathgate, Bones Raleigh and brothers Don Maloney and Dave Maloney. We discussed some pretty heavy issues including the NHL's latest convicted felon and the history of Black hockey. Then we had some fun, seeing Wayne Gretzky in a Soviet national team jersey and somehow working in Bob Ross and George Stromboloupolous.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most important events in hockey history, but it garnered next to no mention. Kudos to James Mirtle and especially Mike Heika for their coverage.

On January 15th, 1968, the NHL had a participant die as of the result of an on-ice play.

Two days earlier the Minnesota North Stars were playing the Oakland Seals. Early in the game Bill Masterton, a highly educated fellow with an interesting story to tell, led a solo rush into Oakland territory where he was greeted unceremoniously by Seals' defensemen Larry Cahan and Ron Harris. Both defenders nailed the smaller Masterton with very hard though clean body check. Masterton fell to the ice, hitting his helmetless head on the ice, instantly knocking him out cold.

Masterton never regained consciousness. For more than 30 hours doctors managed to keep him alive using respirators but the massive internal brain injuries were too immense. Early in the morning of January 15th, 1968, Masterton died.

The NHL was slow to learn from the incident. Few players put on helmets immediately. In fact it wasn't until 1979 that players entering the league were mandated to wear the protective head gear. The last helmetless player did not leave the league until 1997. You would think there would have been more emphasis on the lesson Masterton learned.

In memoriam, I've posted new biographies on both Bill Masterton and Larry Cahan. Both are interesting stories and deserve a read.

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