May 30, 2008

Hockey Players Who Died In Car Accidents During Their Careers

I did not know Luc Bourdon other than as a talented young hockey player who I had really had taken a liking to, both as a player and as a person. I never met him. I never even saw him play in person. But I liked him.

But in this day and age where I, as an older fan, find myself having trouble emotionally attaching myself to any player, Bourdon was one that I did. I really liked his game, likening it to former Canuck great Ed Jovanovski. I really admired him and his family as people, as they were a bit of a rags to riches story. I intended on closely watching his career transpire, hopefully with my Vancouver Canucks, for a long time to come.

When you do attach yourself to a player, something like this really is like a punch to the stomach.This just goes to show that these things happen in all walks of life. We can't live life in fear. And we have to live life to the fullest. Just like Luc Bourdon was trying to do.

God bless you, Luc Bourdon. Rest in peace.

Hockey Players Who Died In Car Accidents During Their Careers

Following the tragic death of Luc Bourdon, I have tried to compile a list of hockey players who died as the result of vehicular accidents while still playing. Here's what I found:

On September 29, 2003, Dan Snyder was critically injured after teammate Dany Heatley's Ferrari struck a wall in Atlanta. Both players were ejected from the car, which was split in half by the force of the impact. Snyder suffered a fractured skull and internal brain injuries. He lapsed into a coma following emergency surgery, and died six days later. Heatley pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide, driving too fast for conditions, failure to maintain a lane, and speeding. He was sentenced to three years probation.

On November 10, 1985, Pelle Lindbergh drove his Porsche into a wall. Lindbergh died the next day. The blood alcohol level of the NHL's reigning Vezina trophy winner was 2 1/2 times the legal limit.

Tim Horton, the Hall of Fame defenseman and donut king, never lived to see the immense success of the coffee shop that adorns his name. With a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit, Horton crashed his sports car while returning to Buffalo following a game in Toronto. Horton smacked into a cement culvert at a speed of 160 km/h. He was not wearing a seat belt.

Bill Barilko died in a plane crash just weeks after scoring the winning goal in the 1951 Stanley Cup. His body was not found for 11 years.

Don Ashby played in 188 NHL games with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Rockies and Edmonton Oilers over 6 seasons in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Ashby and his wife, Terry, were involved in an automobile accident in which their vehicle was hit head-on by a pick up truck and he died a few hours later from massive internal injuries.

Long before Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins were excited by the talents of Quebec League graduate Michel Briere. He was even compared favorably to a young Bobby Clarke. But Briere would only play in one NHL season. During the off season a car accident left him in a coma for about a year. He died in 1971 at the age of 21.

Following a team party after elimination from the playoffs, Carolina Hurricane's defenseman Steve Chiasson died instantly when he crashed his truck on the way home. Chiasson was found to have a blood-alcohol level over three times the legal limit in North Carolina.

On Memorial Day weekend, 1977, the Blues team gathered for a post-season party at Garry Unger’s farm near Gray Summit, Missouri. Rugged defenseman Bob Gassoff was riding one of the farm's motorcycles and collided with a vehicle on a road near the far. Not wearing a helmet, Gassoff died instantly.

Dmitri Tertyshny was a promising young defenseman for the Philadelphia Flyers. In the summer of 1999 Tertyshny attended a popular power skating school in Kelowna, British Columbia. One night Tertyshny, Francis Belanger and Mikhail Chernov headed out on popular Okanagan Lake. Unfortunately, the boat hit a strong wave, surprising Tertyshny who fell out of the boat. The propeller of the boat's motor sliced Tertyshny's jugular vein.

B. J. Young only got into play in one NHL game with Detroit back in the 1999-2000 season. The middle-range prospect was killed in a single vehicle accident in Vancouver in 2005.

Jonathan Delisle was another decent prospect who only got into one NHL game, that coming in 1998-99 with Montreal. He died in a vehicle accident in 2006 in Beauce, Quebec.

Jeff Batters appeared in 16 games with the St. Louis Blues between 1993 and 1995. In 1996 the rugged rearguard died from injuries sustained in a car crash.

In 1986-87 season, the Swift Current Broncos' team bus crashed on the wintery roads of western Canada. Four players died, include Scott Kruger, Chris Mantyka, Trent Kresse and Brent Ruff, the younger brother of NHL player/coach Lindy Ruff. A similar bus accident happened in 1974 involving Sherbrooke of the QMJHL. Gaetan Paradis lost his life as he was pinned under the bus.

George Pelawa, Calgary's 16th overall pick of the 1986 NHL Entry Draft, also died in a car accident before having a chance to play in the NHL. Same can be said about San Jose prospect Zoltan Batovsky, who died in 2001. Other prospects to die in car crashes include Scott Brower, Brent Leavins, Stefan Blaho, Gary Crosby, Neil Carnes, and Jarmo Wasama.

Players who were seriously but not fatally injured in car accidents at some point in their playing career include Slava Kozlov, Pierre Lacroix, Mitch Messier, Craig MacTavish, Fern Leblanc, Tomas Jonsson, Joe Reekie, Randy Holt, Guy Lafleur, Tom McCarthy, Gene Carr, Greg Neeld, Joe Noris, Blair Stewart, Bill Lochead, Brent Loney, Bruce Affleck, Jim Kyte, Don Jackson, Reed Larson, Doug Smith, Robyn Regehr and Mike Velluci.

Russian Automobile Jinx?

What is it with Russian hockey players and car crashes?

Red Wings fans need no reminder of Russian players and car accidents. Just six days after capturing the 1997 Stanley Cup, a limousine escorting three Russians to a celebratory dinner and golf outing crashed. Star defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov, along with team masseur Sergei Mnatsakanov suffered serious head injuries, drastically altering their lives. Neither person was wearing a seat belt.

Viacheslav Fetisov was also a passenger in that doomed limousine, but he escaped with non-serious chest and lung injuries. For Fetisov, it was his third serious car accident. He was involved in an accident in the late 1970s, but it was his accident in 1984 that haunted him for the longest time. Fetisov suffered a broken leg and missed the 1984 Canada, but more damning was the fact that the accident claimed the life of Anatoli Fetisov, Viacheslav’s brother. Anatoli was destined to become a star defenseman with the Soviet national team himself.

In 2003 another Russian Red Wing had his career dramatically altered by a car accident. Can’t-miss prospect Igor Grigorenko was injured in a serious car accident on May 16th, 2003 near the city of Togliatti. Grigorenko suffered a badly broken left hip and fibia. Even more concerning was an embolism in his left lung which created life-threatening complications. He was never the same player after the accident.

Perhaps the greatest Russian hockey player of all time died in a car crash. Valeri Kharlamov was the most electrifying Soviet hockey player of the 1970s, becoming a legend in both Canada and Russia following the 1972 Summit Series. In 1976 he escaped a bad car crash with a broken leg and ribs, but was not so lucky in 1981 when he died of injuries sustained in another accident.

The list grows, though NHL fans might not be familiar with most of the names. In the 1990s a car accident claimed the life of good hockey prospect Taras Kirillov. In the same accident another prospect, Slava Kozlov, a former Red Wing now with the Atlanta Thrashers, was seriously injured and required facial reconstruction. Pittsburgh prospect Artiom Kopot (drafted in 1992) died in 1992.

Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick Vladimir Antipov was in a car accident that claimed his wife's life in 2003. Antipov recovered and returned to the ice. The couple's infant was unharmed in the accident.

History suggests that perhaps Russian hockey players are jinxed when behind the wheel of a vehicle.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget Robyn Reghr in the non-fatal serious car crash. He wasn't yet a player, but was to be a rookie that year.

In 1999, Regehr had to overcome personal tragedy in a deadly automobile accident. On July 4, near his hometown of Rosthern, another car hit Regehr's Chevy Nova head-on. Two people in the other car died, and both of Regehr's tibias were fractured. Regehr put himself through a strict rehabilitation program and ended up playing 58 games in the 1999–2000 season. source:wikipedia

Anonymous said...

I noticed it says that Brent Leavins died in a crash, but he actually shattered his ankle, ending his career. He coaches a senior hockey team in small town Saskatchewan.

Anonymous said...

Gary Crosby and brother Cam played for the Kitchener Rangers. As a teenager at that time, I had a "crush" on Gary and even had his autograph on a program. I was so sad when I heard he had been killed just after I had gotten married. I have never forgotten Gary as one of my very first "crushes" and had hoped to see him play NHL hockel.

DK now in Alberta

Anonymous said...

Gary Crosby and brother Cam played for the Kitchener Rangers. As a teenager at that time, I had a "crush" on Gary and even had his autograph on a program. I was so sad when I heard he had been killed just after I had gotten married. I have never forgotten Gary as one of my very first "crushes" and had hoped to see him play NHL hockel.

DK now in Alberta

Anonymous said...

Dany Heatley's carelessness (and breaking of several laws) results in him crashing his car and killing his teammate. Yet he's still playing in the NHL. And yet Michael Vick's career is ruined over dogs. Boy, we have our priorities straight!

Heatleyfan said...

wat vick did was not evan close to wat danny did buddy he was killing a bunch of dogs to make money wat happen with Heatley could happen to ne one

Anonymous said...

And my big crush... Jim McGeachie - Kitchener Rangers. Car accident. I was heartbroken. I heard he had been drafted to NY Rangers and was out celebrating. Sad news in any case.
MM who now lives in NY but has not gone to a Rangers game.

Anonymous said...

that last guy antipov..you said he died in 2003? on hockeydb.com, he has stats up until 2010..=/

Joe Pelletier said...

Upon further research it appears Vladimir Antipov was injured in the car crash but survived. His wife however did not survive.

Anonymous said...

I've read that Don Jackson was actually coaching at the time of his accident, though it's possible he was in another prior to that. The incident where he clobbered the opposing team's mascot in the stands, was when he first returned to coaching after the accident.

Anonymous said...

Brent Leavins is my uncle, and he is definitely still alive...

Unknown said...

Jim McGeachie would have been putting the puck in the net as well as being one of the top 5 toughest guys in the NHL drafted by the NY Rangers early 80's

Urq said...

Jim McGeachie who was with the Kitchener Rangers in the late 70's was the ultimate blend of toughness and skill. A crowd pleaser that his teammates could depend on, the Jim McGeachie Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the Ranger who best exemplifies team contribution.