Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson's season ended with one vicious slash of a skate blade across his left Achilles' tendon.
Karlsson hopped off the ice on one skate and went straight to the locker room, with a green light for the operating table.
Karlsson was flattened by Penguins forward Matt Cooke, and sliced by his skate blade as the two tangled along the boards. In a sport where brutal head shots and 100 mph pucks to the face often take headlines for leaving lasting injuries, the incident was a bleak reminder of how nasty one wrong cut can cause serious damage. Karlsson, the Norris Trophy winner last season as the NHL's top defenseman, is out for the season but expected to make a full recovery.
As nasty as it was -- and as much as Cooke's motivations have been debated -- there's a chance Karlsson's injury could have been prevented or at least drastically lessened.
Karlsson could have worn Kevlar-reinforced socks that are touted as cut-proof. Bauer, one of the leading hockey equipment manufacturers, for example, makes a skate sock made of Kevlar fiber that would protect the leg from below the knee down to the middle of the foot. The sock is far from mandatory, but Karlsson's injury has made some players think hard about adding a new layer of protection to avoid a similar fate. The Washington Capitals had a box of socks waiting for them before a recent practice.
The socks should be a growing trend in the NHL. But some players are still resistant to use them. The use of Kevlar in other equipment pieces is also debated in the NHL, especially in some of the exposed areas like the neck. It could be a new wave of protection in a game that appears to be getting more dangerous by the season.
Karlsson's injury put the sport on notice to the dangers of playing with legs unprotected. Kevlar, high-impact material used by military, law enforcement and NFL players for body armor, could be the answer.
"That was a scary incident," New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "I mean, they're fluke things, but, I coached [former NHL forward] Richard Zednik who had his artery cut with a skate blade. Guys are moving so fast and plays are happening so spontaneously that I think the more Kevlar we can get on these guys the better, because you can see it's something that doesn't need to happen obviously if you're wearing something like that."