Hockey From the Blind Side, Toughness is not the Question, but Will They Be Smart Enough?

I have often commented on the toughness of hockey players compared to the players of other sports. In fact, I have often gotten flack because of how merciless I can be on baseball players in conversations with friends when we talk about the sports. My favorite line is that you never see a hockey player missing two weeks of a season because of a hang nail ….

Yesterday, I had some minor surgery on two places on my face. One of the spots is right above the eye, and it involved some stitches as well. As I was going through the process and feeling the sensations of the procedure, I found myself thinking about the guys who get hit with pucks or sticks and who end up with bloody cuts that require several stitches to repair and who return to play the rest of a game just a few minutes after having gone to the locker room. My situation was a joke compared to that, and I wondered how in the world anyone would want to return to a game after having themselves cleaned up and stitched up. I can’t tell you how much pain I’m in now, and I am not bragging or boasting by saying that I can normally take a great deal of pain.

Of course, I had a nice dose of anesthetic applied before any cutting was done, and, to be honest, Matt Carkner or Matt Martin probably could have slugged me a couple of times in the face without me feeling a thing for a while there. Still, as insignificant as my surgery was, I still found myself having an even greater appreciation for the toughness of hockey players. I could feel the stitches being set and pulled, and as the pain began to set in afterwards, the idea of going out to play a 60 minute hockey game and, potentially, being hit in the face, was not exactly something I could relate to.

To me, I have no doubts or questions about the toughness of a hockey player. Guys have played entire playoff series requiring knee surgery and with broken bones. Guys have finished season with injuries that would put players of other sports on the shelf for several weeks. I remember Brendan Witt being hit by a car on the way to a practice when the Isles were in Philadelphia three or four years ago and simply bouncing to his feet and making a comment that he was a hockey player and needed to get to practice ….

Now with the lockout looming with ever greater possibility, I find myself hoping against hope that smarter and cooler heads will somehow prevail. The NHL simply cannot afford a long term lockout, and losing an entire season just a short time ago harmed the credibility and popularity of the league quite a bit. I just don’t think that another prolonged labor stoppage will benefit anyone on either side in this case at all, and, in fact, may do irreparable damage in the long term.

It’s a sad and ironic state of affairs when you have millionaires fighting over money, but, obviously, there are plenty of factors and aspects of the collective bargaining agreement that make it a heck of a lot bigger than just a basic squabble over money. Major League Baseball, in my humble opinion, is out of control and may potentially be heading down the path of killing smaller market teams in the not so distant future. Personally, I do not want to see the NHL follow that same path, and having a much smaller segment of the market for fans compared to baseball in the states brings me cause for some alarm. Hockey tickets are expensive enough as it is, and I, unfortunately, do not see that improving for us at all.

You can easily find a discussion of the various issues that are on the table in order for an agreement to be hammered out in a variety of places. The point of this post is not to discuss who is right or who is wrong. I’m not going to talk about what should be given up by one side or another or what should be kept on the table. Frankly, I really have a heap of mixed opinions concerning a number of issues and still don’t know how I feel about them.

My only point here is that someone or a few someones has to figure this thing out and do so soon. A extended delay to the season is basically an unintelligent, counterproductive move by both parties in the discussion. Both sides will be hurt, and the fans are the ones who realistically pay the price again. Weeks or months without hockey effects so many people in so many ways, from the people who work for the teams to the workers at the arenas. On top of that, as I said above, another lengthy delay or even the potential loss of a season could truly ruin the popularity and credibility of the league. That, to me, would be just as devastating as anything else that would be a negative result of a lockout.

So, hopefully, sanity and good sense will win the day in the end. Sadly, it does look, at least, that a lockout is immanent, , but let’s hope that it will only be a brief one. There is far too much to lose in this situation, and I hope there are enough people involved to be smart enough to keep that in mind and reasonable enough to do the right thing to get hockey started in October.

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