Gordie Howe nearly died at a Detroit Red Wings hockey game

Hockey is by far one of the most dangerous sports to play. Many measures have been taken in recent years to make it safer, as in many other sports as well. But in years past, it was not uncommon for there to be incidents of serious injury or even death in sports. Detroit Red Wings legend Gordie Howe, nicknamed “Mr. Hockey,” nearly had a date with death during a hockey game on March 28, 1950.

Michigan Day By Day had a story in its archives about a scary night in Detroit involving Mr. Hockey. During a playoff game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Olympia Stadium, Howe suffered a near-fatal injury. It happened when he tried to ram into Maple Leafs captain Ted (Teeder) Kennedy. #9 ended up crashing into the boards headfirst before falling unconscious to the ground.

The crowd immediately died down and medical personnel were brought in to take him out on a stretcher. After arriving at a local hospital, it was discovered that Howe had suffered a brain hemorrhage and we were listed in critical condition. He also had a broken nose, a broken cheekbone and a severe scratch to one of his eyes. The worry of whether or not he would survive was so worrying that his mother was called to be by his side.

Medical staff performed emergency neurosurgery in an attempt to relieve the pressure and it ultimately saved his life. He also spent time using an oxygen tank while recovering. Needless to say, he missed the rest of the playoffs that year

The Red Wings ended up losing that game 5-0, the first of the first round best-of-7 with Toronto. But they rallied and won the series 4 games to 3. They qualified for the Stanley Cup Finals and eventually defeated the New York Rangers, 4 games to 3 to claim their fourth NHL title.

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It’s hard to imagine what could have been different in the world of hockey, the Detroit Red Wings and the whole sports world honestly if the fate of that night had become even more tragic. The following season, Howe returned, responding to those injuries by playing in every game, leading the NHL in goals, assists and total points, and winning the scoring title by 20 points. The Red Wings also dominated the NHL for much of the decade, winning three more Stanley Cups in 1952, 1954 and 1955.

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Catherine J. Martinez