What the Hockey World Can Learn From Russian Athlete Timur Faizutdinov’s Tragic Death

Virtually all sports have some danger associated with them, though the level of risk is different with each one. Some, like auto racing and football, are riskier than others. There’s a similar risk for hockey players. Sometimes when a player gets hit by the puck, it can be fatal like it was for Timur Faizutdinov.

Teenager Timur Faizutdinov dies in a hockey game

The Guardian reports 19-year-old defenseman Faizutdinov was in a playoff game for Dynamo St Petersburg’s junior team against Loko Yaroslavl when he was hit by a puck from the neutral zone. He collapsed, and team doctor and paramedics treated him on the ice before he was moved to the hospital.

Faizutdinov spent the weekend there before passing away after “doctors fought for Timur’s life over the course of three days,” according to a statement from the Junior Hockey League.

Faizutdinov was a leader on his squad, and when the team posted the announcement of his death on Instagram the post ended with the words (translated to English) “Forever at Dynamo. Forever in our hearts.”

How player safety can be improved

Teams and leagues are always looking for ways to improve player safety, and Dr. Brian Sutterer has a simple suggestion: adding a face cage to players’ helmets, which can help to protect the face and neck from flying pucks, though he acknowledges it may not have helped in the case of Faizutdinov’s situation.

Sutterer also encourages athletes to wear all of the protective gear that they can while they’re playing their chosen sport. Looking at the video of the tragedy, Sutterer believes the puck hit the teen in the head or on the neck below the ear.

As the doctor mentions, reports indicate potential effects of the impact from the puck hitting Faizutdinov include a fracture of the temporal bone, cerebral hemorrhage, and damage to the carotid artery. The temporal bone, in particular, is largely exposed when someone wears a hockey helmet.

It’s tragic when something like this happens, but it’s a rare occurrence when a player dies on the ice. Sutterer says thousands, if not millions, of people have gotten hit by pucks in the helmet or neck and survived. But in a case like this where “a puck just hits so imperfectly,” causing a death that the doctor says is “a one-in-100 million kind of thing.”

Other shocking deaths in the hockey community


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While deaths in hockey are rare, they do occur on occasion. There is one NHL player who has died as a result of an injury he suffered during a game. In 1968, the Minnesota North Stars’ Bill Masterton cut to the right with the puck while two defensemen closed in on him.

As he slid a pass to a teammate, one of the opposing players’ sticks got tangled with Masterton’s skate and lost his balance. He fell forward and the other defenseman caught him with a clean check that sent him flying backward. Masterton hit his head on the ice and suffered swelling in his brain. He was put on life support, but his family decided to end it the next day.

There have been other deaths that shocked the hockey world off the ice, perhaps the most notable being the 2018 bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos youth team, killing 16 people — many of whom were players on the team.