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NHL 142 43 NHL's worst stories of 2011 30466407 Enforcer deaths Enforcer+deaths NHL

Derek Boogaard. Wade Belak. Rick Rypien. Three former NHL enforcers died in the summer of 2011. With each death came more questions about fighting in the league, the stresses that come with being an NHL tough guy and what consistent blows to the head do to the brain. Boogaard’s death was ruled an accidental overdose. Rypien and Belak’s were both ruled suicides, although Belak’s family has said his was accidental. Bottom line, the league’s family lost three brothers and three excellent teammates in a tragic sequence.

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NHL 142 43 NHL's worst stories of 2011 30466408 Down goes Crosby, and again Down+goes+Crosby%2C+and+again NHL

The worst series of events came in the first week of 2011. Sidney Crosby suffered a blindsided hit from the Capitals’ David Steckel at the Winter Classic game on Jan. 1. Days later a check from behind by the Lightning’s Victor Hedman knocked Crosby out for over 10 months with post-concussion symptoms. Canada’s golden boy and the game’s biggest star was dearly missed. He was woozy, he rested, then worked vigorously, and waited patiently for his head to clear. His progress was tracked by fans. That’s why when he finally did return, he made our “Best of 2011” list. That party didn’t last long. Now Crosby’s out indefinitely again after an accidental collision with teammate Chris Kunitz. Will we even see Crosby again this year?

Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE - http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2011/12/13/121311-NHL-worst-of-2011-Gallery-SW-1_20111213194719379_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2011/12/13/121311-NHL-worst-of-2011-Gallery-SW-1_20111213194719379_107_80.JPG
NHL 142 43 NHL's worst stories of 2011 30459684 Vancouver riots Vancouver+riots+ NHL

The land north of the border is known for its nice, generous people. But Canada takes its hockey seriously. When the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in embarrassing fashion (4-0) on home ice to the Boston Bruins, angry fans hit the streets. Cars were set on fire, fights broke out and stores were robbed as rioters invaded downtown Vancouver. More than 100 people were arrested in the postgame tantrum.

Rich Lam - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2011/06/16/061611-NHL-Vancouver-Riot-Gallery18-JW_20110616094112267_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2011/06/16/061611-NHL-Vancouver-Riot-Gallery18-JW_20110616094112267_107_80.JPG
NHL 142 43 NHL's worst stories of 2011 30466406 Racism Racism NHL

There’s no room for racism in sports. But during an exhibition game a banana was thrown at Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, who is black. The unfortunate story, which unfolded in London, Ontario, made national news. Players around the league took to Twitter to support Simmonds. Simmonds, who’s known for his gritty play, pushed controversial questions aside like he does opponents. "Over the past 23 years of my life, I've come to expect some things like that. But I'm older and more mature now, I kind of just let things roll off [my back]. I try not to think about stuff like that,” Simmonds told Philly.com.

Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE - http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2011/12/13/121311-NHL-worst-of-2011-Gallery-SW-5_20111213194719378_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2011/12/13/121311-NHL-worst-of-2011-Gallery-SW-5_20111213194719378_107_80.JPG
NHL 142 43 NHL's worst stories of 2011 30466409 Lokomotiv plane crash Lokomotiv+plane+crash NHL

On Sept. 7, a Russian plane carrying KHL powerhouse Lokomotiv crashed, killing 43 people, including former NHL players and coaches. Ex-NHL stars Pavol Demitra and Ruslan Salei, Olympic gold medal-winning goalie Stefan Liv and former Detroit Red Wings coach Brad McCrimmon were among those killed in the crash. "Though it occurred thousands of miles away from our home arenas, this tragedy represents a catastrophic loss to the hockey world," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement after the crash, which was eventually ruled as a pilot error. A group of NHL wives have since started the campaign “Love for Lokomotiv,” and are selling bracelets throughout the league's arenas to raise money for the families affected by the tragedy.

(ALEXANDER NEMENOV/Getty Images) - Getty Images http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2011/12/13/121311-NHL-worst-of-2011-Gallery-SW-4_20111213194720381_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2011/12/13/121311-NHL-worst-of-2011-Gallery-SW-4_20111213194720381_107_80.JPG
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