Vancouver Canucks: Fans, THIS Is Why You Should Appreciate Sami Salo
Written on February 8, 2011 at 07:38, by headtothenet
In September 2009, upon meeting Sami Salo at a social event before hockey season had begun, I jokingly said to him:
“Hey buddy, no more injuries this year, right? You’re going to play a full season?”
As he smiled and nodded, I immediately regretted my choice of words. I could see by the laboured look on his face that he had heard this sentiment a million times before. The worst part was that of all people, I knew exactly what his injuries had put him through; yet, for some inexplicable reason, I made that crack.
That same September, I was only 4 months past my own ACL repair surgery. Physiotherapists say it takes a full year post-surgery until the knee feels 100 percent again, so the mountain was still in front of me at that point.
Let me quickly tell you about myself: I play some form of hockey – ball, roller, sometimes ice – at least twice a week. I go for 2 fast paced, 30-45 minute runs and I’m also at the gym 3 or 4 times a week, training and staying in shape. In the summer I play ultimate and tennis as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no elite athlete. This is simply the way I live. I love being active, and I love the rush of playing competitive sports (even if I am no all-star).
I say all this so that you understand the blow to my lifestyle that this injury inflicted.
It was a freak snowboarding accident that did me in. I say freak because I was not taking a big air jump, pulling a “sick trick” in the halfpipe, or even flying down a run at a breakneck speed. It was my last run of the day, on my way down to the bottom of Whistler. I took a tiny hop and completely misjudged the landing – my knee buckled, and I fell to the ground with a searing pain through the leg.
That was the end of the life I knew (for a while), and the start of the longest year of my life so far. All of a sudden, free time galore. I had no hockey, no sports to play. I still had to go to the gym to stretch and do my rehab exercises, but it turned one of my favourite places from a site of happiness into a dreaded daily grind.
Please don’t feel like I’m making this into something it’s not. I would often thank God that this was the test he had put in front of me, rather than the trials and tribulations so many around the world have to battle throughout their lives. I kept it in perspective – it was only one year. Still, in my own life, it was more than a hurdle.
Back to Sami Salo – at the age of 36 he has suffered no fewer than 40 injuries during his hockey playing career. The latest of which is a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in the off-season, which to this point still offers no guarantee of a complete recovery.
Salo is not like me – just another person who’s into an active, healthy lifestyle. We’re talking about a professional athlete, someone who has dedicated his entire life to playing hockey, and whose sport has only given back grief.
Everytime Salo has been injured, it has been gut-check time. Will he have it in him to perform the rehab necessary to repair this injury? After the muscles, tendons, and bones are healed, will he be willing to get his body back into the same shape it was in before? We’re not talking about good shape, or excellent shape, we’re talking elite athlete shape.
This is sprint-on-the-ice for a minute and a half, rest on the bench for 30 seconds, get back out there and sprint again – to be repeated 30 times a game – shape. And at age 36, it takes about 5 times the effort to get back to that level as it does in one’s mid-twenties.
Is Salo injury prone? Perhaps he is. Or perhaps he simply has bad luck – the same way I did on that mountain when my ACL was ruptured. Well, my bad luck times 40.
What we do know is that Salo has been through more hardships than anyone to play for the Canucks this season – from broken ribs to back spasms to a sprained MCL to the legendary ruptured testicle.
To me, he is 10 times the warrior of any of his teammates. Be it Glass with his undaunted fights, Ballard with his fearless shot-blocks, or Kesler with the undeniable fire in his belly, none have fought harder for this team than the quiet Finn.
When he returns, an ovation is in order. Canucks fans should appreciate the fact that for every sign of brittleness his body has shown over the years, his will-power has made up for it in spades.
Highlights of Salo’s First Game With the Manitoba Moose on Friday