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These Guys Shoulda Been Hockey Players

Krys Barch's Latest Meeting with a High Stick Got Me Thinking

Monday, 02.02.2009 / 4:00 PM / Feature
By Seamus O'Callahan  - Hockey Historian
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These Guys Shoulda Been Hockey Players

Seamus O'Callahan
Was there really any surprise that Krys Barch was in the lineup on Saturday at Columbus after two hours of dental surgery to repair eight broken teeth the day before? After all, he’s a hockey player.

Heck, Barch even tried to get into a fight in Thursday’s game at Detroit after shattering some of his teeth on the high-stick from Chris Chelios.

Barch is another example of the commitment that players in the NHL have towards their team and their sport, doing whatever it takes to get the job done. A missed game (and in a lot of cases a missed shift) is unacceptable.

I’ve seen many team charters after games where ice bags on players’ knees and shoulders outnumbered the carry-on luggage in the overheads. How these guys do it for 82 games in the regular season and then step it up a few notches in the playoffs is amazing.

But they do it, and it comes natural to them. There’s no question that toughness reigns in the NHL. It has to be part of your makeup and psyche to simply play in the league.

There are a lot of other tough athletes outside of hockey, but who would make the grade in the NHL?

Some candidates from the wide world of sports:

 
Lance Mackey – Mushing

Mackey was diagnosed with throat cancer after the 2001 Iditarod race and underwent extensive surgery as well as radiation treatment. He started the 2002 Iditarod but had to scratch after the race got underway.

A four-time winner of the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest and two-time winner of the 1,100 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Mackey became the first person to win both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod in the same year (2007), then did it again the next year. This was considered almost impossible by many and is considered one of the most impressive feats by a musher. He also won the Tustumina 200 in 2008, and his fourth consecutive Yukon Quest, followed soon after by his second Iditarod.


Willis Reed - NBA

It was Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, and nobody knew if the Knicks’ Willis Reed would play. He had suffered a torn muscle in his right thigh during Game 5 against the Lakers, and had not played in Game 6 when Wilt Chamberlain's 45 points and 27 rebounds enabled the Lakers to tie the series at 3-3.

Reed did not participate in pre-game warm-ups. Just moments before tipoff he limped through the tunnel and onto the court and the Knick fans went crazy. Reed lined up against Chamberlain for the opening tap and scored the Knicks' first two baskets of the game. Those would prove to be his only points, but his presence was more than enough to inspire the Knicks to a 113-99 victory and the franchise's first NBA Championship.

 
Kirk Gibson - MLB

Who can forget where they were when Gibson came to bat in Game One of the 1988 World Series? The mere fact that Gibson could hardly walk, let alone swing a bat, and then do what he did in the greatest home run ever hit (in my opinion).

Talk about refusing to take off a shift.

 
Emmitt Smith - NFL

The all-time NFL leader in rushing did it with consistency and an uncanny durability that has been rarely seen from a running back. A lot of runners have looked unstoppable early in their careers but could not sustain the physical pounding over the years (ever notice that LaDanian Tomlinson is starting to look mortal?).

But Emmitt makes my top spot for the final regular season game of 1993. The Cowboys were beat up and desperately needed to beat the surging Giants to secure a first-round bye. Emmitt willed the Cowboys to win the game, doing so with a separated shoulder. It is what I consider the greatest game by a running back in NFL history, based on its significance and Emmitt’s refusal to quit, even when injured.


Franz Muellner – Austrian Strongman

I saw this lead to a news story online and had to include him: “An Austrian strongman has set a new world record after a 1.8-ton helicopter landed on his back.”

Excuse me?

Franz Muellner supported the helicopter for almost a minute after it landed on his shoulders to secure his place in the Guiness Book of World Records. The record attempt was part of the Vienna Worlds Records Day held in the Austrian capital's Prater Park.

I guess he could carry a team on his back. (Come on – that was funny).

 
In other news from the World Records Day, Marco Hort managed to fit 264 straws in his mouth to beat his old record of 259.

Maybe we can find a place for him on the Sharks’ or Ducks’ roster. (Now, admit it - that was damn funny).
 

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