Most football players are tough. Every hockey player is.
Sunday night’s game between the Penguins and the Blue Jackets included 19-year-old Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski taking a puck to the face. It wasn’t slapshot but a short-range flip. The incident nevertheless opened a huge gash on Werenski’s face and instantly dumped a chum bucket from his nose onto the ice.
It happened in the second period. Werenski returned for the third. Werenski wasn’t able to play in overtime, primarily because his eye had swollen shut.
Via NBCSports.com, Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella praised Werenski after the loss to Pittsburgh: “[He has] balls as big as the building, doesn’t he?”
Here’s the reality: Most hockey players do. Through 82 regular-season games (with the starters never taking a night off), they fly around a frozen pond with blades on their feet and weapons in their hands while a sub-zero projectile whizzes around, ready to maim or worse if the wrong player is in the wrong place at the worst possible time.
For those to whom it happens, it’s arguably a badge of honor. How else can anyone explain the fact that Zach Werenski, looking like Rocky Balboa after 15 rounds of messing with Creed, seems to be smiling at us?