Isles defenseman Radek Martinek hospitalized after vicious hit during World Championships

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Head shots and dirty hits don’t just happen in the NHL, they’re happening at the 2011 World Championships in Slovakia as well.  Islanders defenseman Radek Martinek was severely injured during his Team Czech Republic game against Team Latvia this afternoon when he was unsuspectingly caught in the head by a shoulder hit from Thrashers defenseman Arturs Kulda.

During the first period of play in the Czech Republic’s 4-2 win, Martinek was moving the puck up along the boards and dished off just as Kulda launched himself into Martinek catching him in the head with his shoulder (video). Martinek went straight down to the ice out cold and was removed from the ice on a stretcher. The blow gave Martinek an injury to his spine and a concussion but he’s in stable condition in a Bratislava hospital.

The injury comes at a terrible time in his career as Martinek was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Martinek’s injury history would’ve made him a tougher than normal sell to a team in need of blue line help, but he was rounding into his game last season with the Isles.  With what figures to be a terrible concussion, his road to return in the NHL will be a longer one and without a team to play for come July 1, it might be a while before we see him hit the ice again in the NHL. Martinek is being ruled out of the rest of the World Championships.