The physical nature of hockey has shortened the careers of some of the game’s biggest stars.
Bobby Orr battled knee injuries beginning in his very first NHL season with the Boston Bruins, while Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Mario Lemieux had chronic back woes as well as a laundry list of other ailments.
Often, it’s the wear and tear associated with a certain body part that can shorten a career (Pavel Bure’s knees, Tim Kerr’s shoulders); but, sometimes, a terrible disease such as cancer has sidelined hockey’s best (Lemieux, Saku Koivu).
Even a particular style of play – for example, the power forward position – can limit the number of games those types of players appear in. See Neely, Cam and Clark, Wendel for Exhibits A and B.
No matter how a player came to miss a large chunk of time, a sense of sadness usually creeps into any discussion regarding talented-but-oft-injured NHLers. People forever wonder what the player in question might have achieved had he been blessed with durability.
Although injuries certainly help define the careers of the players who made our list, their on-ice accomplishments stand up on their own. And while not everyone on the list is assured of entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame, all will be remembered as tremendous talents who were dealt a cruel hand by fate.
10. Gary Roberts
Sat out an entire season with a career-threatening neck injury and was hurt for 20-plus games in seven other campaigns.
9. Alex Mogilny
Missed at least 15 games 10 times in 16 seasons.
8. Wendel Clark
Leafs mainstay a victim of his own bruising style.
7. Tim Kerr
Shoulder woes derailed Flyers star at age 33.
6. Eric Lindros
The 1995 Hart Trophy winner was never quite his intimidating self after a series of devastating concussions that contributed to his retirement at age 34.
5. Cam Neely
Boston legend hit 35-goal plateau in first five years with the Bruins, but played only 162 games in final five seasons thanks to a wonky knee.
4. Pavel Bure
Russian super-sniper played 70 or more games just five times during his NHL career, but he scored at least 50 goals in each of those seasons.
3. Peter Forsberg
Lingering foot and ankle problems have sidelined him for at least 20 games per season since 2003-04.
2. Mario Lemieux
Never played a complete season in either junior hockey or the NHL – and played 60 games or fewer in seven of his 18 pro seasons.
1. Bobby Orr
Bad knees limited the game’s greatest defenseman to 47 NHL games after he turned 27.
This list appeared in THN’s Ultimate Book of Hockey Lists.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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