If you don't recognize the man to the left, that's ok. He hasn't played in North America, but he needs to be talked about in a serious way. Ladies and gentlemen, the man to the left is Dmitri Uchaykin, and he passed away today at the age of 32 after receiving a vicious check to the head the day before in a Kazakhstan Hockey League game. Before everyone gets up in arms over a high check, remember that a man has died as a result of a bodycheck to the head in a game of hockey. It's tragic and sad considering that he may have been fine had his head not been the target of the check.
I want to thank reader Peter K. for emailing me this story. Let's go to the game that happened on Saturday night, March 30 between HC Arystan and Uchaykin's team, HC Ertis-Pavlodar. The video itself doesn't actually show the hit, but you can see Uchaykin laboring as he gets to his feet before skating off under his own power.
Everything seemed fine until Uchaykin woke up early this morning with a splitting headache. He was rushed to the hospital where he slipped into unconsciousness thanks to the cerebral hemorrhage that was causing the intense pain. Doctors couldn't stop the bleeding in time, and Uchaykin passed away at 4AM this morning. The 32 year-old leaves behind a wife who is expecting and young daughter in Pavlodov, Kazakhstan in his passing.
Perhaps the bleed that was in Uchaykin's head was already there to begin with before he took the violent check from Kumeliauskas. Perhaps the violent crashing around inside his skull caused the hemorrhage to begin in Uchaykin's brain. The one thing we do know is that the check thrown by Kumeliauskas on Uchaykin was the catalyst for a lethal bleed in his brain. Maybe a check later on would have caused the same problem, but there's no doubt that the check that targeted Uchaykin's head played a large part in the hemorrhage suffered by Uchaykin that eventually claimed his life.
Honestly, Dmitri Uchaykin's name should not be forgotten. While there have been other deaths in and around Russia and its former states in hockey, this tragedy was caused by a player throwing a check that targeted the head of an opponent. All players, regardless of where they play and what league they play in, need to be aware of what caused a tragedy like this.
Rest in peace, Dmitri Uchaykin, and I wish nothing but the best for Uchaykin's family as they cope with this devastation. I feel for Kumeliauskas and his family, knowing that his check was most likely the cause of Uchaykin's death. Here's hoping he changes how he plays the game in light of this tragedy regardless of how rare this type of accident may seem.
I'm not here to preach about the dangers of checks that target the head. Concussions aside, we now have the death of a player on our hands when it comes to advocating for or against high checks. That alone should make the hockey world sit up and take notice of how delicate the brain is, and how it needs the protection of more than just a plastic helmet and some foam.
More importantly, it should be noted that a family was destroyed because of a player's irresponsibility in throwing this kind of check. That's horrible, sickening, and nearly unbelievable had it not happened.
It also kind of makes you wonder when, and not if, the next player will be killed with a check to the head.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!