The NHL is one of the most physical sports leagues in North America, with high impact checking crushers players as massive athletes glide across the ice.
Sometimes, though, it’s not gigantic hockey players doing the damage. It’s something much smaller and deadlier: the puck. The little round disk made of rubber packs a wallop behind it, and while it’s typical deadly to teams on scoreboards, it can become a dangerous projectile.
Just ask Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who took a deflected puck to the face during a Game 3 of their series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Play continued, the Penguins scored, and the Blue Jackets went on to lose.
It’s tough to see what happens in live play, but the slow motion replays and various angles show how the puck ricochets and actually slips right under Werenski’s visor to strike him in the face. He immediately goes down, and the blood spilling commences as he skates off the ice.
Here’s video of the play, which doesn’t get too gruesome but does show Werenski trying to contain the bleeding with a towel as he heads to the bench:
Play continued, as it is allowed to by the rule book, and with the Blue Jackets down a man, the Penguins took advantage of the pseudo-powerplay and tied the game with a goal.
The controversy surrounding the allowed-goal is that NHL referees have the ability to stop the game if it’s “obvious” a player has sustained a serious injury. The refs decided it wasn’t serious, which may have been the right call.
Werenski did need to leave, but he came back and played in the third period before being shut down for overtime. The swelling had gotten to a point that his vision was impaired, and the Penguins closed things out in overtime to take a 3-0 series lead.
All of the above is bad enough for both Werenski and the Blue Jackets, but a picture of the aftermath really drives home how painful the sequence above was. To take a puck in the face, watch your team get scored on, and go down 3-0 was bad.
Looking like Werenski did after the game is insult to injury. Warning ahead of time, this picture is not a fun one to look at:
That legitimately hurts to look at. Imagine taking a puck to the face and coming back to play with that kind of injury. Not all heroes wear capes.