You probably don't know the team's oral surgeon. But you've seen his bloody bodies of work.

Dr. Greg Rekos has been there for just about every Columbus Blue Jackets home game of the past 10 years. Every time one of those blood-on-the-ice, can’t-look-away injuries has required dozens of stiches, Rekos has done that. But the Powell oral and facial surgeon still doesn’t have the T-shirt.

Fans know the one, which made a fashion statement out of a viral post-injury selfie by defenseman Zach Werenski. His stitches, swollen black eye and gauze-stuffed nose were reproduced larger than life across the entire front of the shirt.

“I saw that T-shirt on television!” Rekos says of the fan-made garment, eventually sold to benefit charity. “That picture is him sitting in my office. That’s in my chair.”

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It’s as close to the spotlight as Rekos gets. He spends most games watching from the locker room with four other team physicians. But if you’ve followed the Jackets over the last few seasons, chances are you’ve seen his work.

There was the 2016 game when forward Matt Calvert absorbed a slapshot that required 36 stitches to the forehead. He returned a period later with his head wrapped in bandages and scored a game-winning goal. Then there was Werenski’s injury in a 2017 playoff game against Pittsburgh. A puck smacked off his cheek in the second period, and he returned in the third wearing a full face shield.

Most memorably, there was the fluke accident before a 2012 game at Nationwide Arena when Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall stepped on a puck, fell to the ice and got cut from above his eyebrow to the top of his head by the skate of a teammate who jumped to get out of his way. (You can find video on YouTube, but take Rekos’ advice: “Don’t.”)

Stitches, black eyes and missing teeth might be as big a part of hockey as playoff beards and hat tricks, but truth be told, Rekos’ side gig isn’t as busy as it used to be. Since 2013, the NHL has required new players to wear visors, and more veterans now wear them as well.

“The younger guys are just totally different in their mindset,” he says. “More people wear mouthguards than before. People wear face shields more than before. As of right now, we’re at 100 percent wearing face shields.”

As much as missing teeth are seen as a badge of honor, Blue Jackets head athletic trainer Mike Vogt says the injuries are painful—and serious. NHL players require about 6,000 calories a day, and losing a few teeth can affect what they’re able to eat for a while.

“You have guys flying 20 miles per hour on razor blades, using sticks to shoot a frozen puck,” Vogt says. “It’s a recipe for disaster.”

Rekos jokes with other team doctors—sports medicine and orthopedic specialists—that it’s unfair his work gets more attention than the injuries they treat. “They have to sit there and hear about it for years,” he says. “But it’s the gore. It’s the stuff you see. It’s Calvert looking like a Civil War reenactor with that thing that I put on his head. It’s Werenski back on the ice with a cotton roll in his nose.”

“Man,” Rekos says, again mulling the clothing that showcases his in-game craftsmanship, “I have to get one of those T-shirts.”


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