Live Fast Die Young
By Gregory Sanchez aka Sugarpooper
Last week the Anaheim Ducks twitter account sent out the following tweet to all of its followers, “Paul Kariya’s unforgettable goal in Game 6 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals moves on to the next round in our Honda Center 20 Top Sports Moments.” It is a memorable moment indeed, but for me it is the constant reminder of the brutal hits my childhood idol took over the course of his career. Paul Kariya retired when his doctors advised him to stop playing, due to potentially having Post-concussion Syndrome(PCS). The good news for Kariya fans is that earlier this year in an interview with the Denver Post, Kariya mentioned he wasn’t showing any signs of PCS. Luckily the National Hockey League has changed its rules and regulations, and now hits, elbows, or cross checks directly to the head are deemed illegal instantly. However, hockey is a game that will always be one of the most intense sports of all time.
I could recall at least three different incidents which involved Paul Kariya getting blatantly elbowed or cross checked in the face, and not a single referee would call a thing. Gary Suter, Chris Chelios, & Scott Stevens were all enforcers that were constantly trying to run over Kariya, just to name a few. Although old time, gritty hockey was slowly starting to become a thing of the past, the late 90s and early years of the new millennium were still filled with late checks and some really tough hockey. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim were a perfect example of what could happen if you didn’t have an enforcer on the team to stick up for your star players. In Anaheim’s case, their enforcers at the time were relatively new and simply weren’t getting the job done, enabling the opposition to get a hold of Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne. Even this year, the Anaheim Ducks were outfought by the Detroit Red Wings in seven games. According to Orange County Register journalist Eric Stephens, current General Manager of the Anaheim Ducks, Bob Murray said he “didn’t like that the team didn’t address hits by Jarret Stoll on Cam Fowler in February or Abdelkader’s hit on Lydman.”
On June 6th 2013, also former Ducks & Blues player Andy McDonald retired at the age young age of 35, citing concussion issues as the main reason he chose to hang up his skates. Another one of my childhood idols having to retire. I remember going to a Ducks vs Avalanche game as a kid and Andy McDonald scored the game winning overtime goal, with literally seconds remaining. The game was so close to being over, that my dad was already walking out of the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim (now known as the Honda Center.) He was upset because he thought the game was about to end in a tie, shoot outs still weren’t around then. Andy McDonald found the puck with his speed with only seconds remaining, the puck somehow going past multiple bodies. It was brilliant and I have been a huge fan of his ever since. There is nothing I love more than seeing a good scrap center ice, but it always hurts to see a player go down hard after a questionable hit. The playoffs this year was a perfect example of it. We all saw Eller from the Habs take a nasty hit near center ice and Tony Lydman from the Anaheim Ducks being run over by Justin Abdelkader. The league has stepped up in dangerous hitting though, handing out suspensions left and right.
A huge part of the reason why I despise that Steven’s hit on Kariya in game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals so much is because it is practically one of the very few highlights available online featuring Kariya. However, in reality the majority of Paul Kariya’s goals were absolute dandies. I’d like to be clear and state that the last thing I want to do is take away anything from such a great moment. Not just a great moment for the Anaheim Ducks organization, but for NHL Playoff hockey in general. However, questionable late hits that probably should have been deemed illegal shouldn’t be tolerated, and now I can see exactly why the league has changed. Paul Kariya himself has openly stated his opinion on dangerous hitting in the NHL, stating “You have the best player in the game (Sidney Crosby) playing on the same team as a guy (Matt Cooke) who is ending guys’ careers with those hits. Hopefully, things will change.”
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