Being Hockey Tough: Toughness in Hockey Compared to Other Professional Sports

Brooks+Orpik+Vegas+Golden+Knights+vs+Washington+_wzEJx6QJMvlPhoto: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Broken noses? Stitches? Black Eyes? Missing teeth? Not a problem. At least not for players in the NHL.  Daily, players return to the game after being taken into the locker room with injuries that, in most sports, would end their night. Last week in a 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie left the game not once, but twice due to big hits in the first and second period. Not only did he return to the ice in the third, but he scored the game-winning goal. 

Things like this just don’t happen in the other major sports. In basketball, it is common for players to sit because of things like “exhaustion”. Minor injuries during the game will have them out for the rest of the night. You rarely see football players return after exiting the field, and soccer? Forget about it. A gentle tap on the shoulder could have a player down for the count. What makes NHL players so much more resilient? Passion, dedication, and grit, are three words that quickly come to mind.

Oshie’s stellar showmanship in last week’s game was not the first time a Capitals player came back after an injury to put on a show. In February of 2008, Alexander Ovechkin broke his nose in the first period in a game against the Montreal Canadiens and came back into the game to score not only one but four goals, including the overtime gam-winner.“Today was special day,” said Ovechkin after this impressive performance “I broke my nose, I have stitches, I score four goals. Everything go to my face. It’s the fifth time I broke my nose. It’s okay”.

Although players will fight through all sorts of issues in the regular season, once the Stanley Cup Playoffs come around it’s an entirely different story. NHLers will play with broken ribs, sprained ankles, torn ligaments, and more just to have a chance to win the Stanely Cup.

After winning it all last year, Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik told the media that his pinky “kind of fell off” in the first round. In addition to this, he suffered from another hand injury that required surgery during the offseason.  Unsurprisingly, he didn’t miss a single game.

Hockey players are one of a kind. They are able to compartmentalize their pain for the ability to help their team succeed. Former NHLer Rich Peverly nearly died on the bench in a game a few seasons ago while playing for the Dallas Stars, and his first thought was if he could return to the game. “His first question was really a hockey question,” then-coach Lindy Ruff said. “Something about how much time was left in the first, could he go back in” The allure of winning will keep players on the ice, even when fighting grueling injuries and that is what makes hockey, in the opinion of many, the greatest sport of all-time. 

By Nicole Giordano

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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3 Responses to Being Hockey Tough: Toughness in Hockey Compared to Other Professional Sports

  1. Anonymous says:

    I recall the game 2 seasons ago where Winnik lost part of his ear and only missed 2 shifts!

  2. J says:

    Little bias much? Lmao….
    Nobody will deny Hockey players toughness but Nfl players equally tough if not more.
    Brett Favre basically played his whole career with something broken, fingers, ribs, probably countless concussions and played over 300 straight games at the toughest position in sport, QB.
    I can rattle off countless other tough guys Kobe Bryant who broke every finger on his shooting hand during his career, played through it.

    You think getting hit with a puck is tough? Do what Giancarlo Stanton did, stood in the box for a normal Ab expecting nothing crazy probably just get a hit or out. Instead couple years ago he took 100mph off his jaw breaking his face. Thats tough!

  3. David says:

    What may be missing from this story is how the culture of toughness in the hockey world has had a negative effect on treating players with concussions.

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