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Hockey, A Most Dangerous Game

Photo by: Harry How/Getty Images

During today’s matchup in between the LA Kings and the Columbus Blue Jackets, there was a scary moment involving Nick Foligno and the linesman:

 

I don’t think we as audience members ever really grasp just how fast and dangerous of a game that hockey at the NHL level really is.  As we are watching the games, I think it can be very easy for us to distance the game to nothing more than entertainment. Which is really how we have come to observe and view a lot of the media.  It makes sense that there is a disconnect between the viewer and the producer of entertainment.  For many of us, we are consumers of the media, and whatever happens while we are consuming it is all part of the experience.  I think to many of us, seeing an athlete get injured is all just part of the experience.  They are the one’s that are trained to play the game with such intensity and skill.  They do nothing but eat, breathe and sleep their sport.  They are professionals in every sense of the word.  So when I see an injury like this, it is hard to grasp a couple of things:

1)  How can a play that looks innocent enough have such a disastrous outcome?

After watching this play a couple of times, it seems odd to me that it happened the way it did.   The play starts out innocently enough as a race for the puck.  In fact, I feel that the injury really comes from out of no where.  I think I was expecting the injury to come out of the battle along the boards.  The fact that it happened the way it did is what is startling.  How many times a game does a linesman jump on the boards like that?  It is a very usual occurrence, and really just part of the flow of the game.  On top of that, how many times in a game does a player probably connect in some way with the ref?  Once again, it would seem to be another regular occurrence.  To me it looks like Foligno may have hit a “sweet spot” to have the outcome that it did.

This incident will likely stir up some debate about the makeup of a hockey rink.  Should the players bench and the ice be so exposed?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the entire surface closed in without any imperfections in the boards?  Its hard to say.  I have played hockey most of my life, and I don’t know if I would like it if the rink was built differently.   I think  a big part of the game that would get affected would be the flow and communication of the game.  I think the on-ice product thrives with how the teams seem to seamlessly alter the game from one minute to the next.  Although I do wonder if something more serious than this is going to happen?

2) How come this doesn’t happen more often?

A couple of years ago Zdeno Chara injured Max Pacioretty:

 

By all accounts this was a very similar type of injury.  Not withstanding any players intent, this injury simply wouldn’t have happened if the edges of the boards weren’t so exposed.  The same can be said with the Foligno injury.  Realistically it probably wouldn’t have happened on the other side of the ice.  I think I am just surprised that injuries on the bench side of the rink don’t happen all the time.  Many players can get skating at upwards of 30 MPH. I can only imagine the injury one could sustain just skating into the bench on their own.  Inserting an opponent, or a puck race into the equation, and it really is surprising that injuries like this aren’t more commonplace.  That should probably give us some perspective on just how talented these individuals really are.  They are making so many decisions at an impossibly fast pace.  All the while still having the presence of mind to worry about their safety.

At my last update on this situation, I read that Foligno will recover from this injury.  The report made sure that it was mentioned that he had full use of his limbs.  That is very good news.  I can only imagine how scary this situation is for him, his teammates, his coaches, his family, and the fans.  I wish him a speedy recovery.  I also hope that we don’t have to hear about an injury like this for a long time.

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