NHL stars whose careers were cut short

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April 24th, 2020

Hockey is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world, and some of the best players to ever lace up a pair of skates had their careers ended prematurely due to injuries. Here is our top five list of NHL stars who had their careers cut short.

5. Bernie Parent  

Flyers legend Bernie Parent won two Stanley Cups in Philadelphia to go with two Conn Smythe Trophies and two Vezina Trophies. He might have been able to add more accolades to his mantle, but Parent was caught in the eye with an errant stick during a game in 1979, permanently affecting his vision and forcing his early retirement after 13 seasons at age 34.

Parent was included in the 100 Greatest NHL Players in 2017.

4. Pavel Bure

Pavel Bure was nicknamed "The Russian Rocket" for his blinding speed and goal-scoring prowess a la Canadiens legend Maurice "Rocket" Richard, but his career burned up all too soon.

Bure, one year removed from a 60-goal campaign, tore his ACL in December of 1995, and missed the rest of the season. He played through neck and head injuries most of the following year.

He would bounce around from the Canucks to the Panthers to the Rangers, but by the time Bure landed in New York in 2002, it was clear his best days were behind him due to chronic knee injuries. He retired after 12 seasons, three of which he led the NHL in goals.

3. Peter Forsberg 

Eighth all-time in points per game, persistent injuries robbed Peter Forsberg of the chance to reach his full potential.

Forsberg won Calder Trophy honors in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season, scoring 50 points in 47 games for a rising Nordiques team. The Quebec franchise moved to Colorado a year later, and with Forsberg as part of the championship nucleus, the newly-christened Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 1996.

He was also part of the 2000-01 championship-winning team, but Forsberg was forced out in the second round of the playoffs after undergoing surgery to remove his spleen. He missed all of next season.

Forsberg won the Art Ross Trophy in his comeback year, but issues with his right foot were arising and becoming more frequent. After stops and starts from 2004 to 2008, and a failed comeback attempt in 2010-11, Forsberg retired. 

2. Mario Lemieux

There are many who believe Mario Lemieux would have eclipsed Wayne Gretzky for most points in NHL history had his body not betrayed him.

Lemieux scored 100 points in his rookie season (1984-85), earning Calder Trophy honors. Four seasons later, he earned his first of six career Art Ross Trophies.

"The Magnificent One" battled severe back pain in the 1990-1991 campaign, missing all but 26 regular-season games. But he gave his Penguins a jolt in the playoffs, scoring 44 points in 23 games en route to the first of consecutive Stanley Cup championships.

In 1993, Lemieux shook the sports world by announcing he had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He battled valiantly through the next few seasons before temporarily retiring in 1997 due to fatigue from radiation treatments.

"Super Mario" returned midway through the 2000-01 campaign and scored 76 points in 43 games, a testament to his natural ability. In 2006, citing atrial fibrillation, Lemieux hung his skates up for good after 17 years and 915 games. His 1.883 points per game are second only to Gretzky (1.921).

1. Bobby Orr

Bobby Orr was the greatest defenseman of all-time, and it’s a shame he played in only 657 games over 12 years.

Knee injuries affected Orr early in his career, as he suited up just 46 times in 1967-68, his sophomore season. Regardless, he won his first of eight straight Norris Trophies.

By the time Orr was 27, numerous knee surgeries had taken their toll. The Bruins parted ways with Orr after the 1975-76 campaign in which "Number Four" played just 10 games. Orr tried to make a comeback as a Blackhawk but suited up just 26 times over the next two years before calling it quits. 

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