WILMINGTON (CBS) — Andrew Ference has been nicked by his share of other players’ skates over the years, and he has the scars on each thigh and just above his brow to prove it.
The Bruins’ defenseman says he has close calls all the time with plays like the one that unfortunately ended the season of the Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson Wednesday night following a collision with Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke.
“Lots of stuff happens. I got kicked in the face before. There’s stuff flying all over the place,” Ference said after Boston’s practice Thursday.
That the big news is as much about whether Cooke had ill intentions on the play as it is the loss of last year’s Norris Trophy winner from the Senators’ lineup says a lot about people’s idealistic notions about the game. Let’s face it, there are sharp objects all over a hockey rink, and when the collision sport is being played well there are going to be some dangerous situations.
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If the player that cut Karlsson wasn’t Cooke, whose rap sheet is one of the most famous documents in hockey, there wouldn’t be anything but sympathy for Karlsson and the unlucky player whose blade did the damage (because he’d have to live with the guilt associated with any accident). Ference tends to agree.
“That’s bad luck. No one’s out there trying to kick each other, slice each other up. I don’t care how bad your history is or anything like that,” Ference said.
Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was cut just last season –by his own teammate no less. Seidenberg was sliced by Tim Thomas’ skate and missed a little time when the cut became infected. Despite the incident, Seidenberg decided against the Kevlar sock that was suggested to him to prevent another such incident. Nonetheless, Seidenberg and the rest of the Bruins are at somewhat less of a risk because trainer Keith Robinson has extra non-cut material sewn into all their socks and some also wear this over their thighs. Ference has gone as far as to wear extra protection on his arms because he’s seen guys have both close calls and serious injuries.
That’s what this Karlsson incident should really do – spark more research and development into protecting players better. It’s difficult to combine safety and comfort with pro athletes that are so fastidious about their equipment. Nonetheless, the drive to get these guys the best protection possible will continue.
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As Seidenberg said, the only way to be 100-percent certain you’re not going to get cut is to wear full-body armor with a full visor. Knights can tell you even that might not be enough to stay healthy.
The allure of hockey is the combination of speed and physicality. There are going to be injuries and that’s the risk the players take. For every 1,000 times a Karlsson/Cooke-type play is executed, maybe something happens that injuries one or both of the players.
There are a lot of reasons for Cooke to be excoriated by Bruins and hockey fans the world around for his past indiscretions. But in this instance, he was innocent. That play could’ve happened to anybody. Just ask the Bruins’ defensemen.