Detroit Red Wings star Gordie Howe suffered a near-fatal injury after he tried to slam into Toronto Maple Leafs captain Ted (Teeder) Kennedy during the opening game of the playoffs at Olympia Stadium on March 28, 1950.
Howe crashed into the boards headfirst and had to be carried away on a stretcher as fans in the stands silently watched, shocked.
It was three days before his 22nd birthday.
The brain hemorrhage Howe suffered landed him in critical condition at Harper Hospital; he also had a broken nose, a shattered cheekbone and a seriously scratched right eye. His mother was summoned to his side.
Emergency neurosurgery to relieve the pressure saved his life, along with some time in an oxygen tank. According to legend, Howe apologized to coach Tommy Ivan.
The NHL found allegations that Kennedy heat-butted him unfounded.
The Red Wings lost that night, 5-0, but went on to win the series, 4-3, and, ultimately, the Stanley Cup against the New York Rangers, 4-3.
For the full article, see Zlati Meyer, “Flashback: Mid-game accident left Gordie Howe close to death”, Detroit Free Press, March 22, 2015.