Adventures In Hockey Dentistry
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
NPR's Gemma Hooley brings us this story, a story guaranteed to make a dentist cringe.
GEMMA HOOLEY: Washington Capitals forward Eric Belanger is the first to call it an accident. In a playoff game against the Montreal Canadiens Friday night, an opponent's stick connected with Belanger's mouth at full swing.
NORRIS: The stick, he made a pass and the stick just came up, and I felt my teeth shatter right away. And I knew I was in trouble.
(SOUNDBITE OF HOCKEY GAME)
U: Big collision at center. Eric Belanger lost his helmet, and he is down. Eric Belanger down on the ice, a center ice collision. The whistle has stopped the play.
HOOLEY: As Belanger knelt on the ice and saw the blood, he knew he was hurt. He also knew he wanted to keep playing. What he did next led to one of the more gruesome replays in recent hockey history.
(SOUNDBITE OF HOCKEY GAME)
U: Still trying to sort out - we mentioned Eric Belanger getting clipped by that high stick from Marc-Andre Bergeron. Here's what happened. Bergeron - through the middle of the ice, and it takes Belanger's helmet off. Now, watch this. This is a bit tough to watch, but Belanger pulls out his own tooth, on the bench.
HOOLEY: Talk about taking one for the team. On TV, viewers saw Belanger reach in, pull out a bloody tooth, and present it solemnly to the team trainer like a small, enameled trophy. Then he went to the locker room, where team dentist Thomas Lenz peered at the ruins in his mouth.
D: I said, you know, Eric, this is something we can handle; you know, it'll be all right. There were multiple lacerations, lots of teeth were damaged. But I said, we'll get you through it. In fact, we could probably do something to even get you back on the ice right now - which he was happy about.
HOOLEY: Pumped with Novocain and with more than 30 sutures to stop the bleeding, Belanger rejoined the game. He'd barely missed a shift. On Saturday morning after practice, he faced the media pale and swollen.
NORRIS: I'll try the best I can.
HOOLEY: Pausing every few words to feel around his mouth with his tongue, Belanger itemized the damage through split and bloodied lips.
NORRIS: Stitches and six, seven missing teeth. It was a long night and, you know, especially with the loss, it makes it a lot tougher to digest this morning.
HOOLEY: Six or seven missing teeth was merely the battlefield assessment. After three hours in Lenz's dentist chair on Saturday afternoon, the tally rose.
D: I think we have nine teeth to either replace or do some serious work on. And we got him to the point yesterday where, you know, everything is stable, and he should be fine until we get the time to really fix it properly.
HOOLEY: For NPR News, I'm Gemma Hooley.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.