Photo: 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