From Triumph To Tragedy In The NHL
By Brad James Lombardo 
hockey book
hockey book
"Profiles of six pro hockey players, all of whom tragically died while still playing in the National Hockey League ."

Bill Masterton, Terry Sawchuk, Tim Horton, Pelle Lindbergh, John Kordic, Steve Chiasson

Photographs courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame

Features:  Endnotes and player statistics


Profiles of six hockey players, all of whom died tragically, while still playing in the National Hockey League:

  • Chapter 1 - Bill Masterton (1938-1968)
  • Chapter 2 - Terry Sawchuk (1929-1970)
  • Chapter 3 - Tim Horton (1930-1974)
  • Chapter 4 - Pelle Lindbergh (1959-1985)
  • Chapter 5 - John Kordic (1965-1992)
  • Chapter 6 - Steve Chiasson (1967-1999)




















From Triumph To Tragedy In The NHL

   Hockey Bookhockey book  

Published in 2015 by Create Space, a division of Amazon, the book From Triumph To Tragedy In The NHL profiles six pro hockey players, all of whom tragically died while still plying their trade in the National Hockey League: Bill Masterton, Terry Sawchuk, Tim Horton, Pelle Lindbergh, John Kordic and Steve Chiasson. All photographs are courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame. End notes and career statistics are also provided. The book is available for online purchase at or 

Here's what some hockey experts say about "From Triumph To Tragedy In The NHL"!

"First-time author Brad J. Lombardo does an admirable job of handling such a heavy subject. The book is thoroughly researched, recollects each player's accomplishments, the events that led to their death and the aftermath.....The chapters on Sawchuk and Kordic are particularly strong. Lombardo details how both were already broken men by the time they reached the pinnacle of their careers." - Sal Barry, Hockey News Magazine

"Nice paperback compendium of NHL lives cut short, going back to Terry Sawchuk, with background and epilogue." - The Toronto Sun Newspaper

"This book profiles the personal lives, pro careers and untimely deaths of six hockey players.....Informative and insightful chapters detail the lives and deaths of each player." - Society for International Hockey Research Newsletter

"Lombardo handles a difficult subject expertly, without eulogizing or getting too morose."  -


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Book Overview

When the National Hockey League finally expanded from six to twelve teams in 1967, it provided opportunities for several career minor leaguers to finally get a shot at the bigs.  One of those journeymen was 29-year-old Bill Masterton, who won a regular spot on the roster of one of those six expansion clubs, the Minnesota North Stars.  The overage rookie suffered severe head trauma from an on-ice collision early in the 1968-69 season. Tragically, he died in the hospital soon after. The league later created The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded each year to the player best exemplifying perseverance, dedication, and sportsmanship to hockey. Masterton's death also prompted some NHLers to start wearing protective headgear, but the use of helmets was not made mandatory until several years later.

Arguably the greatest goalie ever, Terry Sawchuk captured four Vezina Trophies and seven Stanley Cups during his glory years in Detroit and, later, Toronto.  A perennial all-star during his remarkable, 21-year NHL career, "Uke" revolutionized goaltending with his trademark crouch style. It was copied by generations of aspiring, young netminders. Sawchuk was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1971, a year after his death from stomach-related injuries, at the age of forty.

Another veteran who enjoyed a long and storied career, tough and dependable rearguard Tim Horton toiled for 24 years in the NHL, winning four Cups with the Leafs and later anchoring the defense for young teams in Pittsburgh and Buffalo. In early 1974, driving home to Buffalo late at night after a game at Maple Leaf Gardens, Horton died when he his speeding sportscar crashed on the highway.

Pelle Lindbergh, the young Swedish goalie for the Philadelphia Flyers, was another hockey star who died in a horrifying car crash late at night. His bright red Porsche crashed in a New Jersey suburb in November 1985, leaving him in a coma, with severe head injuries. Lindbergh had recently become the first European goaltender to win the Vezina Trophy, so the subsequent death of this pioneer star shocked the hockey world.

The death of troubled and tormented enforcer John Kordic also shocked many in pro hockey. An adept fighter who terrorized NHL opponents with his fists during the late 1980s, Kordic was popular in Montreal and Toronto, but soon wore out his welcome. After unsuccessful stints with a number of pro teams, the embattled pugilist died in 1992, likely the result of ingesting a lethal mix of alcohol, cocaine and steroids. His well-publicized demise prompted the league to eventually adopt a comprehensive substance abuse policy.

Alcohol consumption also seemed to have a role in the death of veteran rearguard Steve Chiasson, who played for Detroit, Calgary, Hartford and the Carolina Hurricanes. Chiasson attended a team party right after the 1999 playoffs ended; he died later that night, after his pick-up truck crashed on the way home.