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Islanders Blog: Let’s Get Physical

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New York Islanders defenseman James Wisniewski (20) checks New Jersey Devils right wing Dainius Zubrus (8) of Lithuania, against the boards during the third period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Nov. 26, 2010, in Uniondale, N.Y. The Islanders shut out the Devils 2-0. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

New York Islanders defenseman James Wisniewski (20) checks New Jersey Devils right wing Dainius Zubrus (8) of Lithuania, against the boards during the third period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Nov. 26, 2010, in Uniondale, N.Y. The Islanders shut out the Devils 2-0. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

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By Nick Colombo
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A few weeks ago I created a bit of a stir here when I wrote that hockey is a physical sport and the Mario Lemieux’s of the world should stop complaining and man up.

Despite my best efforts to point out that, “I’m not saying players should go out and intentionally look to hurt each other,” a number of people went on to interpret my comments as suggesting it was totally OK for players to do so. One delightful blog reader went as far as to hope that, if I one day have children, that they would get injured playing hockey.

Well, thankfully, Matt Cooke decided to throw his elbows around recently and make a great point for me about the difference between being a thug and just playing physical. Even better, Mr. Cooke did it while playing for the holier than thou anti-fighting Pittsburgh Penguins.

So let’s clarify my point yet again: Playing physical is OK and good for the game.  Intentionally hurting people is not.

The problem is that all too often people get the two confused.

Sid “The Wimp” Crosby’s concussion is a perfect example. Depending on whom you ask Crosby could’ve sustained his concussion on a number of occasions. It could’ve been the accidental elbow to the head from David Steckel of the Capitals, or a completely legal check into the boards from Victor Hedman of the Lightning. One thing is for sure.  The injury was not caused by Crosby being hit by someone intentionally trying to cause bodily harm. Yet, since the NHL’s Golden Boy got his bell rung, it seems everyone is worried about hockey’s physicality. To me that’s just absurd. As I said before, it’s a physical sport and injuries are going to happen. You want to suspend guys who try to hurt others, go for it. But don’t try to ruin a great game either.

To conclude this debate, the NHL should do everything they can to punish players that intentionally try to hurt others. However, any suggestion that hits and physicality in general should be reduced to avoid injuries is just plain stupid. Physical play is and should continue to be a part of the strategy of NHL teams because it’s part of the fabric of hockey. Guys will continue to get hurt, but unless it’s on purpose, people need to learn to accept it as a natural consequence of contact sports. And by people, I even mean whining Penguins fans who want to change the entire league just because Crosby got a boo-boo.

Questions? Comments? More threats to my unborn children? Hit me up at ncolombo@wfan.com

Is the NHL too rough-and-tumble? Let us know in the comments below…

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