There’s a certain degree to which being a professional athlete requires an innate physical sacrifice – performing athleticism in a professional capacity, especially at the highest levels, has a physical cost in every sport, though that cost varies in both severity and unavoidability. However inherent a physical toll playing sports has on the human body though, professional hockey joylessly takes that cost and chooses to make it so much worse than it needs to be. This is achieved not just through the types of injuries, though contact sports do boast a plethora of added unique paths to injury that non-contact sports do not similarly hold, but also through culture.
It’s no secret that there is a certain fetishization of toughness that takes place in hockey, from the fans to the staff to the players to the reporters. You hear it in commentary about grit and toughness, in praise of willingness to play physical and derision of “softness”, and in the celebration of players playing through injury. It is that last one that often shines the brightest through the NHL playoffs, notorious for both the severity of injury and the pressure to play despite them. Patrice Bergeron playing game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals in 2013 with a punctured lung is a standout example, but is far from the exception.
Injuries in the playoffs aren’t just considered an unavoidable inevitability, as immutable as the seasons (and certainly nothing that the league could prevent in any way, ever) – they’re a badge of honour, a symbol of sacrifice to the team and to the cup, lauded and lionized. No amount of praise can rectify a permanent injury though, and the price that might be extracted without even the hollow reward of a cup win has the potential to be be devastating. Personally, I could happily go the rest of my life without seeing something like Jake Muzzin lying on the ice in game 2 of the Leafs qualifying round series against the Blue Jackets, in that nauseatingly soundless arena, but that may just be me.
Anyways, on to this video that the NHL posted on twitter yesterday that definitely has no relation to any of the above:
To hoist the #StanleyCup...— NHL (@NHL) September 22, 2020
THERE IS A PRICE TO PAY. pic.twitter.com/sTXglOu9kT
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Hockey players are praised for their willingness to play through injury - no matter the cost.@rwesthead presents The Problem of Pain, a year-long investigation into painkillers and the culture of pain in the NHL...— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) September 22, 2020
Viewable worldwide: https://t.co/fIE8PhiZI8 pic.twitter.com/3QxG83IqSf