In the same week that we all welcomed back NHL’s poster child Sidney Crosby, we saw another lesser-known player suffer a major injury. The only similarity was how the hockey world reacted: With undying support and prayers.
There was just over two minutes left in the game when Patrick Eaves took a slap shot to the ear by Nashville Predators Roman Yoshi, which resulted in a busted jaw and reconstructive surgery. It was a freak accident, the kind where no one is to blame and the instigator is as pitied as the victim. It was an injury that made every hockey player wince at the replay and feel a little more trepidatious about again stepping out on the ice.
Moreover, it was an injury that united fans from across the NHL.
It wasn’t long after I saw Eaves wheeled out on a stretcher that the tweets and blogs sprang up wishing him the best. Detroit and Nashville fans alike prayed to any responsive deity that his injury was not serious or life threatening.
From the way he went down and the trajectory of the puck, my first thought was that it hit his temple. An injury of that magnitude could not only cause a concussion, but also severe brain damage or blindness. True, a broken jaw and eight weeks of dining on milkshakes and Ensure is hardly a consolation price, but the alternative could’ve been much worse. The hockey career of Patrick Eaves, if not his life, might have been spared by only a few inches.
It’s these types of moments that bring all hockey fans together. Sure, we may hate a certain player or team, but I honestly believe that there are only a handful that all fans (including myself) I want to see maimed into retirement.
Take Sidney Crosby. I admit, I’m not a fan. I find his style of play to be boring and predictive and he’s a world-class whiner. Furthermore, his anointment as the “Hockey Christ” is ungodly annoying. That said, I was happy to see his return to league.
Here’s the reason: Even though his resurgence fuels the sports media with hours or unrequited praise and almost certainly guarantees the Pens return to the Stanley Cup Finals, his return marks the end of a tragic tale. It means that a person with a lot of talent and passion can continue participating in a career that he was born to do. This should be cause of celebration from all hockey fans; regardless of what team you show your allegiance.
It may be presumptive, but one of the reasons why I love this game is that it’s a very humanizing sport. We may despise a player or team, but our compassion is rarely extinguished. I compare it to a dysfunctional family with an undertone of hate, yet will always support and protect each other from external threats. It was evident with the Lokomotiv tragedy, the Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak and Rick Rypien deaths, and even the Sid watch. In a split second, we were all KHL, Wild, Preds and Canuck fans. We had each other’s backs.
Patrick Eaves may not be a favorite among NHL fans, but for a moment we all were in his corner. It was nice to see that humanity still thrives in hockey
Follow Derek Hansen on Twitter @Hockey_Mouth