The Career-Ending Injury to Red Wing Doug Barkley

With the Red Wing season opening very shortly, one can only hope that this year the team will remain healthy and perhaps make another run for the Stanley Cup.

As we all remember, in recent years the Red Wings have suffered career ending injuries to two of their top defenseman. Had both been able to resume their careers, one wonders if the Wings might have captured yet another Cup with their work on the blue line.

Following the 1997 Stanley Cup Championship Vladimir Konstantinov was seriously injured in a limousine crash and in 2005 Jiri Fisher nearly died on the ice during a game due to cardiac arrest. (In Fisher’s case the game was postponed, the first and only time that has ever happened in NHL history.)

However Konstaninov and Fisher were not the first high quality Detroit defensemen to have their careers suddenly derailed.

On January 30, 1966 the Red Wings lost an All Star defenseman at Olympia Stadium when Doug Barkley was battling for the puck at the blue line with Chicago’s Doug Mohns.

Mohns attempted to lift Barkley’s stick but missed and caught the bent-over Barkely directly in the right eye. Barkley, who after his first season in Detroit (’63-’64) came second in the Calder Cup Trophy voting in the closest vote ever, was rushed to the hospital in his uniform and was operating on immediately. He remained in the hospital for two months, underwent three more operations but the damage to his retina was too severe to salvage his vision. At age 29, Barkley’s playing career was over.

The Wings front office however kept Barkley in the organization first in public relations and later as a minor league coach. In 1970 he was briefly the head coach before quitting after a poor start. He returned as head coach in 1975 but got himself in trouble after punching an out of town reporter during a heated exchange. He lasted just 26 games before being fired and replaced by general manager Alex Delvecchio, his former teammate.

For years the Alberta native has been the color commentator for the Calgary Flames for a number of years.

It’s no wonder that more players are wearing face shields when you consider how easily an eye injury could occur in hockey. It is amazing that more careers have not ended like that of Doug Barkley.