Chicago Blackhawks appear to be going down like flies at the World Cup of Hockey
The World Cup of Hockey hasn’t even started its regulation run, and participating members of the Chicago Blackhawks are already dealing with problems.
Marian Hossa‘s injury heard ’round Chicagoland saw him miss the third period of a pre-Cup game Thursday. He was transported to a hospital for X-rays, but it sounds as though Hossa’s injury isn’t that serious — a bruised foot.
Meanwhile, Marcus Kruger also missed the third period of a pre-Cup game due to the ever-concerning upper body injury. The latest update on Kruger’s condition is that he’s being held out of action for precautionary reasons, though Blackhawks management and fans still have to fear he could have a concussion.
So that’s it then, right? The World Cup of Hockey — making its return after a 12-year hiatus — is now a useless, glorified exhibition that all hockey fans should hate. If players are getting injured at it and it’s not counting toward the ultimate hockey goal — the Stanley Cup — why are they playing at all?
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This is just part of playing hockey
Here’s the thing. The World Cup might be an exhibition, but it is not like the NFL, NHL or MLB preseasons. It’s actually quite a bit more important.
When players get injured in preseason competition for the four major leagues — especially in the NFL — fans get up in arms about keeping prized athletes sidelined until the really important action happens.
And there is merit to that. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo last month broke a bone in his back in a game that meant nothing to the NFL season. Now he’s out many weeks.
Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock, one of the better players on a poor team, missed most of this season after undergoing elbow surgery as a result of diving headfirst into a base during a spring training tilt.
So what makes injuries suffered by Hossa and Kruger, regardless of their severity, different? The stage, and I don’t just mean their involvement in an international tournament.
Any chance to promote hockey is one to be taken
The NFL is extremely popular in the United States. MLB and NBA are doing just fine as well. But the NHL? Due to poor marketing decisions, lockout troubles and TV deal woes, it’s trailing quite obviously in American popularity.
So when the World Cup of Hockey made its return this year, it was critical for the league to get as many of its best players into action. Sure, some would skip out to nurse injuries (as Chicago’s Duncan Keith wisely did). But there was still a plethora of talented athletes to choose from.
And that meant some of the league’s best were at risk of suffering injuries over the course of playing hockey, as they might during a training camp, preseason, regular-season or postseason game. And that’s what we’ve seen already with Hossa and Kruger. It happens.
But the NHL needed this event. It might seem like a glorified cash grab, but getting hockey on ESPN for a couple weeks, and trying to get it to branch out to young kids and others who don’t typically watch, is really important to the league’s current and future health.
Be upset, but don’t boycott the Cup
And so, it sucks Hossa and Kruger have suffered injuries in a contest that doesn’t count toward earning the Stanley Cup. But we shouldn’t make this out to be similar to an NFL player getting hurt in a preseason game (or an NHL player getting hurt in a preseason game, for that matter).
Hell, stupid things happen all the time in practices — players run into each other, rogue pucks act like heat-seeking missiles for heads, players lose an edge and crash awkwardly into the boards. But no one ever suggests boycotting practices for NHL games.
So fans shouldn’t get up in arms about guys like Hossa and Kruger getting hurt at the World Cup of Hockey. I know that’s not easy to do, especially if one is your favorite player. But there’s a reason for them and others being involved in this event, and it’s important to the league as a whole.