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The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain

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1The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain Empty The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain on Wed Apr 15, 2009 8:38 am

davetherave

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Come playoff time, lots of players are injured. But you'll never know how badly until the music's stopped. It's the best kept secret in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. How bad do the players want to win? Here's a great article on the subject from today's Detroit News.

Pride outweighs pain in NHL playoffs

For many in the NHL, playing hurt in playoffs is worth a shot at Stanley Cup

Dave Dye / The Detroit News April 15, 2009

You want the Stanley Cup? Pay the price.

The two-month, NHL playoff grind that begins today is a journey of sacrifice.

It's Toronto's Bobby Baun scoring in overtime of Game 6 in the 1964 Stanley Cup Finals on a broken ankle.

It's Steve Yzerman, at age 37, playing basically on one leg throughout the Red Wings' 2002 Stanley Cup run, then undergoing radical knee-realignment surgery.

And it's the tortured screams of Brent Gilchrist coming from the trainer's room every time he received a painkilling shot in his groin during the Wings' 1998 playoff run.

How badly do you want it? Will you give your body?

There's really no other way to win those 16 playoff games.

"It shows mental toughness, character, professionalism, commitment," said NBC analyst Pierre McGuire, an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins during their 1992 championship season. "There's no out-of-bounds in our sport. You're playing at a high rate of speed. Sticks and pucks are a real part of it. You've got lots of different vehicles that can create injury, physical duress and damage.

"And when you're doing it virtually every other night for two months, it becomes really, really difficult. It's amazing to watch the sacrifices guys make. That's probably why winning the Stanley Cup is so special."

By the time the Cup is hoisted in mid-June, faces will be cut and scarred. Teeth will be knocked out. Players will be battered, bruised and limping. Surgeries will be required.

In the regular season, players might be out for days, weeks, months. But in the playoffs there's no time to heal or rehabilitate, not with another crucial game in less than 48 hours.

Shake it off and play

The culture, the unwritten code, of playoff hockey is you find a way to play.

"We have warriors in our sport," said Wings assistant Brad McCrimmon, who played 18 years in the NHL.

Tomas Holmstrom played with a hernia and Valtteri Filppula on a partially torn right knee ligament during the Wings' playoff march last year.

"It's a game of survival," said ex-Wings trainer John Wharton. "It amazes me the level of pain tolerance these guys have. I still don't get it. Knowing what I've seen and what I should have seen, it's incongruent."

But in the NHL, it's expected.

"There's a silent police in the dressing room," Wharton said. "Guys know whether or not you should be playing. It's unspoken, but it's felt."

Kris Draper has played in 192 playoff games.

Most memorably, he suffered a broken jaw, nose and cheekbone after being run into the boards by the Colorado Avalanche's Claude Lemieux in the 1996 conference finals.

At other times, painkilling shots have helped keep him going with a broken rib, separated shoulder and hernia.

"You know you're making it worse, you know at the end of the year you're going to have surgery, but you freeze it up and go play," Draper said. "Whatever you have to do, you're going to do."

Ted Lindsay, one of the game's all-time toughest players during a Hall of Fame career with the Wings, recalls playing on a fractured foot in the playoffs about five decades ago.

"The mind can overcome a lot of things," Lindsay said. "When you play this profession, you have to have pride in it, you have to have love for it. Love sometimes makes you do things you normally wouldn't do."

Leading by example

McGuire considers the valor displayed by Yzerman seven years ago "nothing short of spectacular."

"That's one of the game's all-time great laurels," McGuire said.

Players are inspired when they witness a teammate go to such limits. Their own ailments don't seem quite as important.

"You can't help but go out and try to give everything you have," said Wings veteran Kirk Maltby. "It's contagious."

Yzerman, who had 23 points in 23 games in those 2002 playoffs, received anti-inflammatory shots before each game.

It didn't eliminate the pain, but made things more tolerable, he said.

The painkilling shots are as much a part of playoff hockey as growing beards.

Chris Chelios, in his 25th NHL season, said he has received so many shots over the years, "I feel like a pin cushion."

"I don't like it in the toes," Chelios said. "Needles in the toes or the fingers, that's very sensitive. Other than that, you don't think about it. I probably take them when I shouldn't just because they don't bother me."

While Yzerman hobbled, taking injections and providing inspiration, he was well aware of the broken-ankle legend of Baun from decades earlier.

"Guys like that set the bar and every generation of player has got to live up to it," Yzerman said. "I wouldn't say everybody does but, hopefully, the guys on your team do."

Crossing the 'fine line'

Gilchrist, Yzerman's linemate, went to the extreme -- all for the opportunity to play on his first Cup champion team.

Shortly after pregame warm-ups during those playoff games 11 years ago, Gilchrist headed to the trainer's room for "the shot heard 'round the dressing room."

"It was the tendon where it attaches to the pubic bone," Gilchrist explained.

"Pretty much as private a part as you can get," Wharton said.

Wharton would hold one of Gilchrist's hands. Piet Van Zant, now the Wings trainer, held the other. Gilchrist bit down on a towel. David Collon, the team physician, gave the shot.

"We literally could hear him screaming," Yzerman said. "It was awful."

"I walked away," Holmstrom said. "I didn't want to hear."

Gilchrist played in 15 of the team's 22 playoff games that season, but missed the four-game sweep of the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Finals.
By then, the tendon had torn away from the bone and there was nothing doctors could do.

"Now that I've retired, I hate pain," said Gilchrist, who lives near Vancouver. "I hate even thinking about things we went through as players. I look back on it now and it was just what you did. I don't remember the pain being bad enough that I didn't want to do it.

"I guess there's a fine line. When you're hurt, I think you can play. And when you're injured, you can't."

Gilchrist paused before adding, "In the playoffs, that line is sometimes distorted. Guys are playing injured."

And for hockey players, the real pain is in never winning the Stanley Cup.

2The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain Empty Re: The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain on Wed Apr 15, 2009 9:16 am

Cronie

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That last line from the Beast Gilchrist sums it up.

Nice piece DTR. Thanks for sharing... Smile

Finally, the drought is over. Puck drops tonight.

GIGGIGY GOO!!!

3The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain Empty Re: The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain on Wed Apr 15, 2009 11:04 am

wprager

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"High rate of speed" -- thanks for the giggles, Pierre.

4The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain Empty Re: The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain on Wed Apr 15, 2009 11:29 am

davetherave

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wprager wrote:"High rate of speed" -- thanks for the giggles, Pierre.

Mr McGuire will recording his first comedy album this summer, titled "I Used to Be a Hockey Coach, Eh?"

Laughing3

5The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain Empty Re: The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain on Wed Apr 15, 2009 11:35 am

Cronie

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davetherave wrote:
wprager wrote:"High rate of speed" -- thanks for the giggles, Pierre.

Mr McGuire will recording his first comedy album this summer, titled "I Used to Be a Hockey Coach, Eh?"

Laughing3

I'll be sure to pick up my copy... LOL

Hey Pierre, got a book recommendation for ya: "Hole in the Mattress" by Mister Completely! Great Read!!

6The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain Empty Re: The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain on Wed Apr 15, 2009 12:42 pm

wprager

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Funny thing is, I listen to him almost daily on TGOR, and he *always* uses words and expressions like those. You kinda get used to it. But seeing it in print like that is just priceless.

7The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain Empty Re: The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain on Wed Apr 15, 2009 12:57 pm

davetherave

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wprager wrote:Funny thing is, I listen to him almost daily on TGOR, and he *always* uses words and expressions like those. You kinda get used to it. But seeing it in print like that is just priceless.

You ever notice how out of breath he sounds on TGOR? LOL

8The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain Empty Re: The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain on Wed Apr 15, 2009 1:44 pm

SensGirl11

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What an awesome article! Thanks DTR!!

9The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain Empty Re: The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain on Wed Apr 15, 2009 1:54 pm

PTFlea

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Holy Dung Gilchrist, that's amazing - and horrible - but amazing.

This is what it's all about.

Starts tonight at 7:30. Pain, suffering and the road to something very, very special!

10The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain Empty Re: The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain on Wed Apr 15, 2009 2:18 pm

wprager

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davetherave wrote:
wprager wrote:Funny thing is, I listen to him almost daily on TGOR, and he *always* uses words and expressions like those. You kinda get used to it. But seeing it in print like that is just priceless.

You ever notice how out of breath he sounds on TGOR? LOL

Umm, actually, no. on TGOR he sounds like he's just gotten out of bed and is waiting for that first cup of java to finish brewing. Of course sometimes the interview is done over a cell phone while running through the terminal. Maybe that's what you meant?

11The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain Empty Re: The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain on Wed Apr 15, 2009 2:29 pm

davetherave

davetherave
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wprager wrote:
davetherave wrote:
wprager wrote:Funny thing is, I listen to him almost daily on TGOR, and he *always* uses words and expressions like those. You kinda get used to it. But seeing it in print like that is just priceless.

You ever notice how out of breath he sounds on TGOR? LOL

Umm, actually, no. on TGOR he sounds like he's just gotten out of bed and is waiting for that first cup of java to finish brewing. Of course sometimes the interview is done over a cell phone while running through the terminal. Maybe that's what you meant?

Gee, I thought it was because he's always so excited to be on TGOR LOL

12The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain Empty Re: The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain on Wed Apr 15, 2009 2:33 pm

PTFlea

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He's amazing to be doing TGOR in the morning. The guy works non-stop, then he phones in religiously from wherever he is and talks hockey with the Ottawa morning sports show.

Amazingly dedicated and passionate - whether you like listening to him or not.

13The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain Empty Re: The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain on Wed Apr 15, 2009 2:39 pm

davetherave

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504Heater wrote:He's amazing to be doing TGOR in the morning. The guy works non-stop, then he phones in religiously from wherever he is and talks hockey with the Ottawa morning sports show.

Amazingly dedicated and passionate - whether you like listening to him or not.

Agreed--I never miss a segment of his.

It does however, get old hearing almost constantly that he used to be a coach, though...

14The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain Empty Re: The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain on Thu May 14, 2009 6:56 am

davetherave

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And will we ever know how bad Sergei Gonchar's knee injury was/is?

Anybody remember the Bobby Baun story BTW?

From The Bleacher Report:

It was 1964. In Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings, Leaf defenseman Bob Baun fell to the ice in excruciating pain after blocking a slap shot off his ankle late in the third period.

Baun was carried off on a stretcher and was presumed to be out for the remainder of the series. During the intermission, Baun refused to have his ankle X-rayed.

Instead, he insisted it be frozen and, miraculously, he skated out for the overtime session.

The Maple Leafs, facing a three games to two deficit at the time, were in need of a hero to keep their Stanley Cup dreams alive. At the 1:42 mark of overtime, Baun drilled a shot from the point that beat Detroit netminder Terry Sawchuk, giving the Leafs a Game 6 victory.

Inspired by his heroics, the Leafs easily won Game 7, 4-0, giving the team a third consecutive Stanley Cup victory.

It was not until after the series that it was discovered Bob Baun had scored that overtime winner on a fractured ankle.

15The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain Empty Re: The Playoffs: Playing Through The Pain on Fri May 15, 2009 12:52 am

davetherave

davetherave
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We've heard about some of the walking--well, skating wounded--throughout the playoffs...

Now that we are down to the Final Four, it will be most interesting to find out how banged up many of the warriors--whose teams have been eliminated--were.

Even more interesting to examine who might be playing through pain--and what kind--in the Conference Finals.

We know some who were...

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