Everyone likes to think that their favorite sport is the most demanding and produces the best athletes, but for the ultimate combination of physical conditioning, strength, skill and courage, I challenge anyone to top the hockey player.
Sure, soccer players can run full tilt for 90 minutes and need great skill to handle the ball. Yes, football linebackers are strong as bulls and can sprint like a deer. I know, I know -- hitting a curve ball is one of the most difficult things there is. NHL goalies do their best to hit a fast curveball with their bodies about 30 times a game. And while they may be in good shape, I have no time for the boohooing and theatrics of soccer players who bump into each other, or occasionally collide mid-air. And don't talk to me about the long term wear and tear on the bodies of the armoured behemoths in the front lines of the NFL, how often to they get hit with a stick by someone going in excess of 30 kph?. You want tough? Meet the Montreal Canadiens' Travis Moen.
Moen took a skate blade in the face on Monday night, resulting in between 40 and 50 stitches, but, as the Montreal Gazette tells us: "Moen had hoped to play in Wednesday’s game in Buffalo, but doctors didn’t want his injury subjected to the altitude pressures of flying. It was just the sixth game the durable forward had missed in his past 320 in Montreal, San Jose and Anaheim."
As Moen himself said in the article (emphasis mine): “I was unlucky to get hit, but lucky that it missed the eye – fortunate enough that nothing serious happened. I was fortunate that (the skate) missed my eye and I just got some stitches. I’m definitely happy that was the outcome.”
Rugby players take a pounding. Marathon runners have incredible endurance. Driving Nascar or Formula One cars means knowing that if someone else makes a mistake you could end up trapped in a pile of burning, twisted metal. I acknowledge all that. I'll go one better and specify that all athletic endevours carry some risk of catastrophic injury- think of Joe Thiesman getting his leg snapped or Jessica Dube nearly getting her nose cut off in a figure skating accident. But name me one other sport where getting 50 stitches in the face is just another day at the office.
Moen is fully expected to be back on the ice tonight.
In the words of Warren Zevon: "Take care of your teeth, that might work for you, but what's a Canadian farm boy to do?"