Playing through Pain, Anderson’s Legacy, Missing Outdoor Rinks

Five Thoughts for Friday

I have some thoughts on various topics; five thoughts, five topics:

On Craig Anderson’s Legacy:

Anderson’s career with the Sens is worthy of a fuller retrospective, but in light of the news this week that he will not be returning to the team I thought it was worth taking a moment to appreciate just how good he was during his time in the nation’s capital. It’s a bit of a shame that he struggled in his last couple of seasons, because before that he was awfully good. A concise summary of just how good:

That’s some elite company. Anderson was never the absolute best goalie in the league, but he often had a claim to top 10, if not top 5 status. Did he play long enough in Ottawa to merit his number being retired? That’s a tough question for a healthy debate another day. For now, a salute to the man who transformed Ottawa’s crease from a huge liability to a major strength.

On Steven Stamkos:

It may sound strange, but I feel badly for Stamkos. The Tampa Bay Lightning are two wins away from a Stanley Cup, and his surprise goal in game 3 aside, Stamkos has contributed virtually nothing to the run. Sure, he has been around the team and it seems like he’s been a good teammate. He played a big role in Tampa having such a strong regular season and his mere presence has been crucial in their incredible level of play over the last several years. He’s worked very hard to rehab his injury to return when he did. But all of that must be cold comfort when considering the possibility that he will have to watch his teammates lift the Cup without him. No matter how much he pretends otherwise, it just won’t feel the same. I don’t have anything profound to add here, it was just a thought that occurred to me as I watched him cheer on his teammates from the bench during Wednesday night’s game. For his sake, I hope he’s healthy enough to play the last couple of games. It just won’t feel the same if he doesn’t.

On Whether the Sens Need a Goalie:

I try to stay away from media/fan rumours but this one seemingly won’t go away no matter how hard I try: the Ottawa Senators are supposedly interested in acquiring an experienced netminder. I understand the argument for doing so, as it is true that there is no proven NHL starter in Ottawa. To that I say: is there a problem with that? In his media appearances this week, one of the things Pierre Dorion emphasized was that the organization was expecting the young players to step up and take on a leadership role. He was comfortable with letting Mark Borowiecki and Craig Anderson walk because they believe they can fill the leadership vacuum internally. I don’t disagree, so let’s extend that idea to the goal crease: Marcus Hogberg will be 26 by the time this season starts and he’s played four seasons of AHL hockey. If he’s not ready today, when is he going to be ready?

On top of that, are the Sens even at the stage in their rebuild that they should care about wins and losses? It says here that barring some radical overhaul, this team is going to stink again next year. That’s not a bad thing, rebuilds are slow, but why pay anything in a trade for a goalie who might win you 2-3 more games while blocking your young goalie prospects? Doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it’s a rumour that just won’t go away so it seems like we’ll be dealing with it for a while yet.

On Playing Through Pain:

Beata linked to it in her Links, News, and Notes piece on Thursday, but I think the recent TSN mini-documentary “The Problem of Pain” is a very important piece of work. The term “hockey culture” encompasses a lot of different things, but there can be no doubt that laying your body on the line, and then playing through the resulting pain, is a glorified part of it. I actually have mixed feelings about this: on the one hand, the concept of selflessness and self-sacrifice for the greater good are things that I subscribe to. Beyond even just team sports, our society in general is better when individuals make sacrifices for something bigger than themselves. In this way, a defenceman putting his body in front of a slapper has a certain emotional resonance with me.

On the other hand, sacrificing your body is inherently dangerous and the way that the game handles injuries is disgraceful. We should not be celebrating players for playing through debilitating injuries by using painkillers. Ryan Kesler used toradol to numb the pain. His explanation for why he did so is telling: “I never wanted to hurt the team, so I knew I had to play. To play, you have to take painkillers.” Kesler developed colitis from chronic use of the drug, which he describes thusly:

I had holes in my colon and ulcers, and basically my whole intestines went into spasm. It’s very unpleasant. You’ve gotta go to the bathroom 30-40 times a day. And when you do go to the bathroom, it’s pure blood. It depletes you. It’s terrible. And it’s all because I wasn’t made aware of what this drug could potentially do to me

Blocking shots is part of the game of hockey. As long as it remains a contact sport, injuries will be fairly frequent. Players who make selfless plays deserve to be praised for them. But if they suffer a broken ankle, for god’s sake we need to let them take the time to heal. Because make no mistake: when you read about a player who “battled through the postseason” with some sort of injury, and we cheer every clip of him menacing on the bench, part of what you’re cheering is the painkillers and everything that comes with it. This is a thorny issue, one that can’t be solved by anything other than comprehensive action. The first step to doing so is changing attitudes.

On Being Excited for Outdoor Hockey

On a lighter note, now that summer has truly ended and fall has begun I’ve been thinking about what playing hockey will look like this winter. For several years I’ve been an avid beer league player, but this year, in light of you know, everything, I’ve decided to sit out. It will likely have been 8-9 months without playing by the time I step on the ice again in late November/early December; barring a minor miracle, my next few strides will be on an outdoor rink. I’ve missed playing a lot, but I’m determined to make the most of the outdoor season this year. I’m even a bit excited by the prospect: some of my fondest memories growing up are spending my Saturdays at the outdoor rink at Brewer Park near my parents’ house. In recent years, I haven’t made the time to get out as much when I’ve already been playing three nights a week. It feels like a simple thing to look forward to, but I’m trying to give myself these little positive things to focus on. Hockey helps.

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