Wednesday night, Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson suffered the type of scary fluke injury that all hockey players hope they never have to endure.
Karlsson suffered a 70 percent cut of his left Achilles tendon when Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke’s skate inadvertently got caught on the defenseman’s foot while they were battling for the puck along the boards.
Karlsson, the defending Norris Trophy winner, had surgery Thursday morning and will be out for three to four months according to Senators General Manager Bryan Murray. Cooke did not and will not receive any supplementary discipline for the play, which was deemed accidental.
“It’s unfortunate, I think, and nothing you want to see out there,” said Nicklas Backstrom, who knows Karlsson. “But obviously it happened and I feel sorry for him, I feel bad for him.”
Cuts on players’ legs or arms from skate blades are a common occurrence in the NHL, though most manage to avoid serious harm. Karlsson’s unfortunate injury may prompt some players to take additional precautions, like using socks reinforced with Kevlar that are cut-resistant.
Among the Capitals, Alex Ovechkin, Eric Fehr and Jay Beagle all use the Kevlar socks.
“I’ve been wearing them for probably three, four years I guess, pretty much when they came out. I feel like they’re a regular sock but they’re more protective, so I don’t see a reason why I wouldn’t wear them,” Fehr said. “Some guys say they don’t like the feel but I don’t notice a difference.”
The socks don’t protect players completely, but they add another layer of defense. Fehr said he sustained a cut on the back of his knee last year, above where the socks cover, that required stitches.
Matt Hendricks was cut on his right foot, near his ankle, by a goaltender’s skate during his college playing days at St. Cloud State. He doesn’t use Kevlar socks now, but he did change how he suits up for games after the cut. Hendricks now places his shin guard over the tongue of his skate to prevent the possibility of lacerations, he used to push it down making him vulnerable for cuts at the top of his foot.
“I think the scariest part was I’m looking down at my skate and I don’t see anything wrong. And I feel a lot of pain from it, but you can’t see it,” Hendricks said. “It’s not like when you get cut on the face where you can immediately tell that there’s a problem. So that’s scary.”
After seeing what happened to Karlsson, Backstrom said he might consider using the Kevlar socks and he might not be the only NHL player who thinks about such a change.
“I don’t know, maybe I’ll try it,” Backstrom said. “That would be great if you can prevent it.”