Michael Sauer still hasn’t recovered from Phaneuf hit

Original source via Toronto Star

“Phaneuf takes it around back of the net, flipping it up around the boards, doesn’t get it ou—OH HO! WHAT A HIT! OH DID HE GET HIM!” —Joe Bowen

This hit was from a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers back in December. The image above doesn’t make it look like Dion Phaneuf caught Sauer in the head, and the video (posted after the jump) is a little bit lower resolution than the image, but confirms that the check was legal.

And that’s all well and good. Phaneuf delivered a strong hit here. The Leafs at that point in the year were the only team to beat the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, and from reading the gamer linked above, it’s obvious that the Leafs did everything they had to. They played physically against the bigger Rangers, taunted them and broke them down.

Via Larry Brooks today in his New York Post column, behind ~20 pages of Giants/Jets coverage:

There is scant optimism within the Rangers’ camp that Michael Sauer, sidelined for the duration after being concussed last Dec. 5 on a hit delivered by Dion Phaneuf, will be cleared for a return to duty, even if this season’s opener is delayed by months.

If Sauer, said to be feeling better than he was before returning home to Minnesota for the summer but is not believed symptom-free, cannot play, he would be placed on the long-term injury list.

The 25-year-old defenseman’s older brother, Craig, has suffered from depression after sustaining multiple concussions while playing six years in the NFL for the Falcons and Vikings.

It’s never nice to know that one of your guys potentially delivered a career-ending hit to another player, despite us knowing the hit was legal.

I’m not sure what the lesson is here, except that the nature of concussions and our knowledge of the later effects in life make it harder to be a sports fan. Deadspin founder Will Leitch wrote a good column last week as to whether or not his enjoyment of football has been tempered by the knowledge:

Football is a violent sport, and always has been, but over the past few years, the increasing evidence of widespread concussion-related brain damage (and the suicides of several high-profile players, including Hall of Famer Junior Seau) is reaching a saturation point.

Substitute “football” for “hockey” there. With the amount of information about players and teams making its way around the Internet, it’s harder to ignore.

Quick personal aside: The best hockey game I remember going to as a kid was a 2000-01 game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Colorado Avalanche. These were the years when the Avalanche were running over inferior teams in the Northwest Division. They went onto win the Stanley Cup that year, sweeping the Canucks in the first round, but it was a successful season for Vancouver because they had made the playoffs for the first time since 1996.

Type “Ed Jovanovski” into the Youtube search bar, and the first auto-complete option that pops up is “Ed Jovanovski Adam Deadmarsh”, a fight that occured during this game. To the dulcet tones of Toronto’s favourte commentator Jim Hughson:

The arena erupted, and the arena erupted when Jovanovski scored a go-ahead third period goal against Patrick Roy. Vancouver held on for the 4-3 statement victory, and everybody in attendance stayed to give Jovanovski a standing ovation for what was one of the most defining performances by a Vancouver Canuck in that lean, lean era.

Adam Deadmarsh’s career had two more concussions and presumably suffered a head injury in this one. He left the game after being helped off the ice but would continue playing with the Avalanche. Most recently, Deadmarsh has been found he can’t coach due to concussions.

How can Phaneuf rationalize the hit on Sauer? Well, it was plainly legal. The contact that injured Sauer was presumably Sauer’s unprotected head hitting the boards. I can’t see from here, but maybe his chin strap wasn’t on tightly enough.

Hockey is a dangerous game. Even once we’ve eliminated the dirty hits, there are still chances for injuries. This was one of those “yikes, that’s hockey” moments that got us out of our seats when it happened, but upon reflection, the hit and the emotion created wasn’t worth costing some player his career and his well-being after hockey.

I love hockey and I will always love hockey and I will always watch it no matter what form it takes, but, like football, it’s becoming harder to cheer in these situations when you know the potential consequences. There’s always that brief moment of elation when our guy has caught an opponent with his head down, quickly soured as we notice that the other guy isn’t getting up.

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