Alec Martinez could feel his heart beating. He could practically see it happening too.
With every pump, blood was sent rushing through his veins. From his right wrist, it came gushing out through a gash severed open by the edge of a skate. Beat by beat, a little more spilled. In all his years on the ice, the Kings defenseman had never suffered an injury like this.
“Anytime you look down and you’ve got blood shooting out of your arm to your heartbeat,” Martinez, 32, said, “that’s never a cool thing to see.”
In the Kings’ Nov. 25 win over the San Jose Sharks, Martinez sustained lacerations to his radial artery and two superficial radial nerves in his right wrist. He was rushed to the bench, then the locker room, then a hospital. As hockey injuries go, few demand such drastic measures.
“It’s pretty scary,” Martinez said. “Obviously, that wasn’t very fun to go through.”
More than a month later, Martinez was cleared to return to the lineup Saturday night for the Kings in a 4-1 loss to the Nashville Predators at Staples Center. Though the cut itself has healed, the scar on his skin remains — a long purple line curling from the bottom of his palm and around the inside of his forearm.
“I got some pretty gnarly pics,” he said.
The memory is still seared in his brain too.
Early in the third period that night, Martinez dove head-first and arms-extended toward a loose puck around his own net. His face-down position left the inside of his wrist exposed. Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson accidentally stepped on it. Right away, Martinez knew something was wrong.
“I knew I got stepped on, I knew I was cut pretty bad,” he said. “I didn’t know it was that bad though.”
Martinez skated himself back to the bench, then was immediately escorted by the Kings’ training staff to the locker room. They quickly realized it was no minor nick. Martinez needed serious medical attention. He was transported to Keck Medicine of USC.
Martinez said the injury itself “wasn’t super painful — probably because my nerves were severed.” But once doctors discovered his radial artery — the same one used to take a pulse — was cut, reality sunk it.
“When they put my arm up in the arm, and the doctor pinched that off — it was horrible,” Martinez said. “I was squirming.”
Skate lacerations are an inevitable part of the sport. But this season, they’ve been uncomfortably common. Several other players have suffered similar situations since Martinez’s injury, which required surgery and more than a month of recovery time to let his injured nerves heal before he could even rejoin team practice.
In December, New York Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Ilya Mikheyev were cut in the wrist by skate blades, while a goalie in the Ontario Hockey League sustained a leg laceration. All three of those injuries also required surgery.
In October 2017, Kings forward Jeff Carter suffered a skate-related injury when he had an ankle tendon cut.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a run like this ever,” Martinez said. “It’s a fluky thing.”
Asked if he thinks the league should mandate more protective gear for players — many wear cut-resistant socks, but wrist guards are rarer — Martinez didn’t endorse the idea, though added that he will start wearing wrist guards.
“Why not protect yourself, or take the risk?” he said. “I knew the risk going out.”
His return marked 40 days since his injury as the Kings recalled Derek Forbort from a conditioning assignment and put Joakim Ryan on injured reserve.
“There’s not much you can do,” he said. “You’ve just gotta let it heal. Surgery is what fixed everything. And then you’ve just got to let the wound heal.”