The San Jose Sharks play for one another—it’s as simple as that.
“This year I feel like guys put their body on the line,” said forward Ryane Clowe, who separated his shoulder so severely that his teammates had to put his sweater on while assistant coach Jay Woodcroft laced up his skates before games.
“In those playoff battles everyone talks about how your body takes a beating.”
Joe Thornton, the team captain, separated his shoulder in a similar manner and broke the tip of his pinkie finger in a regular season contest against Dallas and never re-attached it.
“The tip’s just kinda floating in there,” said Thornton of his pinkie, “so they’ve just gotta put it back.”
When asked what degree separation he suffered on his shoulder, Thornton said he blocked it out.
“I just said, ‘Yeah. Whatever. Let’s just go out and play.’”
“I hate using injuries as excuses,” says rookie forward Logan Couture, who shattered his nose in Game 3 of the Vancouver, “because every team goes through them.”
Jason Demers suffered a high-ankle sprain in Game 7 against Detroit and did not return in the Vancouver series, feeling that the injury fettered him enough where his play would have been detrimental to the team.
“You don’t want to use it as an excuse,” he said, echoing Couture, “but we had those and that hampered some of the guys [from] playing to their max.”
Dany Heatley suffered an ankle injury in Game 3, Dan Boyle was bothered by a regular-season knee injury and Scott Nichol had a serious laceration above his knee that required 20 stitches.
Clowe acknowledged that he hears people caution against playing with injuries.
“You say, ‘Shouldn’t you avoid that stuff?’” he said. “Boston, Vancouver or Tampa: whoever wins that Cup, those guys are going to be ice bags the rest of the summer.”
“Once you get into the playoffs you can’t really think about yourself as far as being injured,” said Thornton, “you’ve got to think about the greater good and about the team.”
This may appear to be men trying to be macho, but the skaters who did not suffer injuries offered similar selfless statements when describing their play and the contributions from their teammates.
“People realize how tough some of the guys are,” said forward Devin Setoguchi of Thornton and Clowe, “but they don’t realize what it actually takes to go into a game after your separating your shoulder.”
Setoguchi, however, did not give any indication that he wanted to join them on the operating table.
“This is the first time in my four years in the NHL that I haven’t had to get surgery at the end of the year,” he said. “I’m as happy as I could possibly be.”
“We definitely had a bunch of guys banged up pretty good and playing through a lot of pain,” said forward Patrick Marleau, who also did not suffer any major injuries during the postseason.
“That’s nice to see, but you hope and wish that you don’t have to deal with those types of injuries.”
“It would be nice to see everyone healthy,” said Boyle, “but it’s not going to happen.”
Injuries are ugly.
Missing teeth means painful dental work. Open gashes soak breezers with blood. Separated shoulders prevent players from putting on their sweaters.
However, a person’s ability to set aside personal discomfort for the good of the team…
That is beautiful.
That is hockey.
Thanks to Mercury News beat writer David Pollak for the official list of injuries.
Tom Schreier is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from the San Jose Sharks.