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August 18, 2015

Sami Salo

Sami Salo figures he suffered over forty injuries in his 15 year NHL career. Even he has lost count in a career that lasted nearly 900 games - despite the fact injuries only allowed him to play close to a full schedule in four seasons.

The worst injury had to be a ruptured testicle when he was hit by cannonading shot from the blue line.

Yes, Salo was wearing protective equipment but it did not matter this time.

And, yes, Salo did play the next game.

Aside from a snakebite - yes, you read that correctly - many of the other injuries were fairly routine by hockey standards - shoulder, foot, knee, back, finger, groin, Achilles tendon (which Sami claimed was the most painful), concussions, broken teeth - he checked them all off the list. The puck to the face that required metal plating to rebuild his nose must have hurt, too.

In the end it was a wrist injury that officially forced Salo off the ice. He missed the entire 2014-15 season and announced his retirement in the summer of 2015.

Salo was always an underrated defenseman.

The 6’3″, 215-pounder was all but an afterthought in the 1996 draft, as Ottawa selected him in the ninth round with the 239th overall pick - third from last overall.

He proved to be a steal. Though Salo appeared in only 195 of his 878 contests with the Senators, he would go on to become an important member of the Vancouver Canucks for many seasons.

Over nine seasons with the Canucks Salo was known for his over-powering slap shot that quarterbacked the Canucks vaunted power play. When healthy he was the straw that stirred the drink on the Vancouver blue line. When he was injured the team noticeably missed his presence. He became a very solid player despite average skating. He compensated for that nicely with smart positioning and superb anticipation, especially when pinching off the blue line. He was a wise puck mover out of his own zone and grew into a confident all around defender, utilizing his great size and strength.

Salo reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first and only time in his career in 2011, though the Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games. He set the franchise record for the fastest back-to-back goals by one player that postseason, scoring a pair of memorable power-play tallies 16 seconds apart in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks.

An unrestricted free agent after the 2011-12 season, Salo jumped at a two year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Prior to the wrist surgery, he was relatively healthy for two full seasons, including the lockout shortened 2012-13 season.

Salo also had the opportunity to represent his native Finland in three Winter Olympics. He helped his country win the silver medal in 2006 and the bronze in both 2010 and 2014.

Not bad for a player that was never expected to make it in the first place.

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