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Getting a hockey legend back in the swing of things

When former NHL player Clark Gillies needed a knee replacement, we were there to help.

Hockey Hall of Famer Clark Gillies (right) with his orthopedic surgeon (left) on the golf course.
Clark and Dr. Healy are great friends—they go golfing together often.

Hockey Hall of Famer Clark Gillies was the NHL’s “power forward”—a nickname he earned from 1974 to 1986 for hoisting four Stanley Cups as the force behind the New York Islanders dynasty. He scored more than 600 points during a dozen Islanders seasons and was known as a two-way player and enforcer.

But Clark’s athletic pursuits did not end when his professional hockey career did. He fell in love with Long Island’s other pastime: golf. Today, Clark is an avid golfer and enjoys walking the course.

Yet life after hockey, along with the wear and tear from decades of intense physical competition, brought new challenges. For years, Clark worked with orthopedic surgeon William Aloysius Healy, MD, to try to get relief for his knee pain while delaying a total knee replacement. Dr. Healy’s methods included giving Clark gel shots to lubricate and cushion his knee cartilage and using a knee brace when he played golf.

Hockey Hall of Famer Clark Gillies swinging a golf club at a golf course.
Clark Gillies enjoys the golf course after two successful knee replacements.

“I appreciate that Dr. Healy didn’t just race in to do a surgery on me; he tries to be a little more preventative,” Clark said, adding, “but when my knee pain overnight felt like sleeping with a full-blown toothache, I knew that I had enough.”

Around 2012, Clark was forced to ride in a golf cart because of intense knee pain while his friends walked each hole beside him. That year, his left leg collapsed from under him while playing the 14th hole at the Huntington Crescent Club. “It was a turning point,” Clark said. “I threw down my club in frustration and decided to get a knee replacement.”

Clark didn’t give a second thought as to where he would undergo surgery—he chose Huntington Hospital. That revelation came on a Saturday, and by that following Friday, he had the procedure completed by Dr. Healy.

Because Dr. Healy understood Clark’s unique golf swing—which involves a lot of pressure on his left leg—he used a revision-type knee implant on the left side. Clark underwent a total knee replacement on the right side in October the following year.

Hockey Hall of Famer Clark Gillies on a golf course holding a golf club and catching a golf ball.
Life is good for this pro athlete—and he owes it all to his care team at Huntington Hospital.

“Whether it be for my knees or otherwise, I have never had anything but a wonderful experience at Huntington Hospital,” Clark explained. “From presurgical testing to the surgical prep to the medical staff in the recovery room, everything could not have gone better. I was looking around and I got the same treatment as everyone else with nurses who couldn’t be nicer. Huntington Hospital is second to none. It’s about as state-of-the-art as you can get.”

Among the reasons why Clark chose to have surgery at Huntington Hospital, besides his high confidence in Dr. Healy’s abilities and knowing that it has one of the best joint replacement programs around, was its convenient location. Having the care he needed nearby would be easier for his family to visit him and for him to get to subsequent doctor’s appointments.

Since getting both of his knees replaced, Clark is back to walking the golf course with no issues—and power walking with his wife. He also rides a snow mobile and did wave running in Florida. The athlete inside is still “powering forward,” thanks to a little medical intervention.

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