In the NHL, it's a game that is played by large, muscular men, flying around the ice on sharp skate blades, wielding sticks, and crashing their opponents into the boards. It's sort of an understood thing that when you step on the ice, there's a very good chance you could get hurt. It's how you face up to the injuries that often determines your toughness as a hockey player.
It's this time of year - playoff time - when stories of truly strong, passionate, and tough players begin to emerge. Often, it's not until a series is over and a team's season has ended that the truth comes out - that some key players were battling injuries, but fought through it to play for a chance at the Stanley Cup. And often, these injuries could just make you cringe.
For instance, Ottawa's Captain Daniel Alfredsson. We all knew something wasn't quite right with Alfie during their Round 1 series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He just wasn't giving it the way Alfie can (even though he did stand out as one of their best players in the final 2 games of the series). It wasn't until the Sens fell in 6 games to the Pens that his problem was revealed: a sports hernia, which he recently had surgery to repair. He began suffering from severe abdominal pain around the time of the Olympics, and was being shot up before games in order to play through it. Yep. That's tough.
On the Pittsburgh side of things? The mighty Jordan Staal, a fierce competitor and a sonofabitch to play against (yes, I'm still sore about losing to them), had a tendon severed in his foot by PK Subban's skate in Game 1 of their series against Montreal. Staal had surgery to repair the injury, and missed games 2 and 3, but was back in game 4 against the Habs. That's a severed tendon, people. Players miss months with similiar injuries. Tough? I'd say so.
But I'm not sure any of these injuries compares to that which Vancouver defenceman Sami Salo suffered in their Western Conference semi-final series against Chicago.
In Game 5, Salo was hit in the groin area by a deflected Duncan Keith slapshot, and after writhing in pain for several minutes, he left the ice. He was taken to hospital, where it is believed he was treated for a ruptured testicle.
I'm not a guy, but that even makes me feel a little sick.
"Testicles and composure are the two words of this series," said Salo's teammate Shane O'Brien. "I'd rather get it between the eyes than where Sami baby got it."
The mere thought of it has had men squirming everytime the injury is mentioned. But guess who suited up last night for Game 6, only 2 days after sustaining one of the most horrifying injuries a man could ever think of?
You got it. Sami Salo.
If that's not tough...I don't know what is.