How Much Hockey Is Too Much? [Solved!]

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While there is no denying that ice hockey is a beautiful game, there is also no denying that it can be quite rough sport. Checking from behind is a common occurrence in hockey, with fights and injuries commonplace. In fact, according to the NHL, injuries that occur during play make up 15% of all games played annually. This makes the game quite risky, especially as players get older and more experienced.

With that in mind, how much hockey is too much? Especially given how important the game is to the participants, their families, and hockey fans around the world? The answer to this question is probably different for everyone, but perhaps someone on this list will be able to offer some advice.

NHL Superstars Take A Daring Look At The Risks And Rewards Of Play

On Monday, the National Hockey League held a conference call with the media to provide an update on the 2020 NHL Season and discuss many of the league’s biggest issues. One of the things that was discussed was injuries and how they have impacted the game. Interestingly, several of the league’s premiere players took a daring look at the risks and rewards of playing the game and how much it actually takes to make it in professional hockey.

If you’re unfamiliar, Roman Jurga was the first player to join the 500-goal club, and he did it in just six seasons (think back to his rookie year). Since then, several other players have joined the club, including Alex Ovechkin, who has six 500-goal seasons under his belt. Ovechkin is still looking for his seventh 500-goal season, and according to Jurga, he may not even get a chance to play this season.

“He’s out for the year,” Roman Jurga said on the conference call. “He tore his ACL in early October. So, we’re not going to get a chance to see him this year.”

While this is certainly a huge blow to the league and its fans, it may be a blessing in disguise. Injuries like this keep the games competitive and make sure that star players stay at the top of their games. Without them, the league might not be as interesting or as compelling.

Along with Ovechkin, the NHL held a conference call with several other elite players to discuss the game and how much it takes to play at this level. The participants of this conference call were:

  • Evgeni Malkin (Sidney Crosby’s linemate and one of the league’s greats)
  • Zachary Fucale (Goaltender for the Carolina Hurricanes, winner of the 2019 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy)
  • Auston Matthews (Anze Kopitar’s center, played for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season)
  • Alexander Radulov (Left wing for the Dallas Stars, winner of the 2019 Richard Grenier Award)
  • Pierre-Luc Dubois (Right wing for the Colorado Avalanche)
  • Travis Konecny (Right wing for the Philadelphia Flyers)
  • Johnny Gaudreau (Left wing for the Calgary Flames)
  • Jason Chimera (Center for the Winnipeg Jets)
  • Jaromir Jagr (Right wing for the New Jersey Devils)
  • Nathan MacKinnon (Center for the Colorado Avalanche)

During the conference call, these players discussed how much hockey is too much, the risks and rewards of playing the game, and where they see themselves in five years. A few of their comments:

Malkin On Playing Despite Achy, Aching Joints:

One of the interesting things about this conference call is that several of the participants used the opportunity to discuss injuries and how they impacted their games. For example, Sidney Crosby’s longtime friend and teammate, Evgeni Malkin, talked about playing with “achy, achy joints” and how he manages to keep up with his career every single year.

“Last year, I had surgery after the season,” Malkin said. “So, this year, I had to come back earlier. But, you know, with my body, it’s tough. You can play with some pain. But, I try to play with a lot of passion. So, whenever I can, I want to play. You know, as long as you have that, I think it’s good.”

To put things in perspective, Malkin is talking about his arthritis here. Arthritis is a common condition that causes joints to become stiff and inflexible, resulting in pain and discomfort. While there is no way to ‘cure’ arthritis, there are things that you can do to manage it and keep playing. For example, you can take an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce some of the pain. Or you can try one of the newer medications that are targeted at relieving arthritis pain and inflammation. Finally, exercising the joints can also help to improve flexibility and overall health. Malkin has been doing this since he was 19 years old, and he credits his longevity in the NHL to continue to do so. While there is no denying that injuries can be a major factor in a player’s early decline, those who play with injuries usually don’t stay down for long.

Fucale On The Brink Of Making It In The NHL And Beyond:

Fucale, who won the 2019 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for “his perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey”, saw his NHL debut last season and ended up earning a spot in the lineup for the Hurricanes. In order to make the team out of camp, Fucale had to beat out several others for the spot, including Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas.

Last season, he went 19-9-1 in 32 games (starting with a 3-1-0 streak to end the season) with a 2.04 goals-against average and.932 save percentage. This year, he’s back with the Hurricanes and will be looking to build off of that rookie season success. And, for those who might be wondering, Fucale does not consider himself a “lock” to make the team this season.

“I want to make the team out of camp this year,” Fucale said. “It will be a tough challenge, but I’ll do my best.”

Matthews On The Importance Of Mentally Preparing Yourself For The Season:

Matthews was one of several players who took a few moments to discuss injuries and how they impact their games. He agreed with the other participants that injuries are common in the game, and he even went as far to say that he expects to see more concussions this year as a result of the increased violence. Still, he feels that having a clear head is an advantage, especially when it comes to preventing injuries.

“If you’re not mentally prepared for the season, it can be difficult to perform at your best,” Matthews said. “Since the start of this year, I’ve had a lot of time to prepare myself for the season and get mentally ready to play. I’ve had a lot of good months ahead.”

Others Speak To The Risk And Reward Of Playing:

Several of the participants on the conference call spoke to the risk and reward of playing. This is pretty self-explanatory, especially for those who played professional sports before turning professional. Still, it’s interesting to hear these elite hockey players discuss why they play and how much it costs them both mentally and physically to do so.

“You know, you weigh the physical risks versus the mental rewards,” Travis Konecny said. “You look at the long-term health effects of playing, and for some people, it’s not worth it. For me, I love playing. I love being on the ice. So, for me, it’s worth it. It’s not something I need to be told to do. I’ve been playing my whole life. I just want to continue to do so.”

Nathan MacKinnon, who spent the 2019-20 playing in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), shared a similar sentiment, explaining that while his body has adapted to the rigors of playing professional hockey, his mind has not.

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