Last week, the Carolina Hurricanes treatment room looked like a waiting line at a MASH unit. Ten players were nursing some type of injury. Things are looking better at the moment, but the injury bug is nothing new for the Canes and it's starting to make fans as well as team management ask the magic question, "why us?".
Of course when someone gets clobbered out on the ice the way that Tim Conboy and Matt Cullen recently did, there is nothing really that can be done to prevent that, it's just part of the game. Same thing with knee injuries and the like. You can keep your head up to avoid the blind shots, but it's impossible to keep from being hit if the game is being played properly.
But what about Justin Williams and his most recent injury which happened during an off-ice training session before training camp even started? This article in the Edmonton Journal describes what happened:
The Hurricanes were testing their players at a combine-type training centre where NCAA football players might go through their paces for NFL teams. They were running on turf, going back and forth to lines on the field, in short bursts of speed.
This leads to the title's first question, do today's athletes over do it? Is there such a thing as "over-training"?
Earlier during this offseason, I interviewed the Head Athletic Therapist/Strength Conditioning Coach for the Carolina Hurricanes, Pete Friesen and asked him about the plethora of injuries that the Canes had last year. While Friesen didn't have a definitive answer, he did admit that over-training could be an issue.
One thing I can assure you, it is not because of lack of fitness. I have interviewed several players and different teams around the league, and I honestly believe that our team is the among the fittest, if not the most fit in the NHL. But are we too fit? Do we skate too hard and too fast? Is it our style of play? I don’t know.
Friesen also alluded to the fact that new stiffer skates might be causing some injuries as well. He is not alone with his speculation. The Montreal Canadiens have been suffering from an inordinate number of groin injuries this preseason and head coach Guy Carbonneau blames it on the skates. According to this article in the Globe and Mail:
In hockey, as with most things in life, new technology is usually a good thing - until it isn't.
Take recent advances in hockey skates, which are now stiffer, more ergonomic and generally light years ahead of the blades worn barely a decade ago.
But Montreal Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau thinks the unyielding boots on his players' space-age skates - typically made with fibres like carbon, Kevlar and graphite - may be a contributing factor to a rash of groin and hip injuries that has befallen his team.
Six regulars have been laid low with soft-tissue leg injuries - two hip injuries, four groin pulls - in the past six days.
Carbonneau said the lack of flexibility in the next-generation skates means that a player who catches an edge or a rut, or is simply off-balance, has a greater risk of pulling or twisting a muscle as he rights himself.
As mentioned, Pete Friesen said the exact same thing in his interview from three months ago. Coincidentally, Ray Whitney and Tuomo Ruutu both have groin/leg injuries as well. (Although it should be noted that both players have suffered from similar injuries in the past).
The rash of recent injuries has also caught the eye of Hurricanes management. General Manager Jim Rutherford was recently quoted as saying:
We’ve had a couple of years of really bad runs with injuries, but that doesn’t mean this has to continue, I do think we have to take a closer look at how our players prepare themselves and how they train, because I’m not so sure that it’s just bad luck and maybe there has to be some adjustments as to how the players are prepared."
Speaking of bad luck, things could always be worse Caniacs. Remember last year when Cory Stillman hurt himself in a freak single car accident, and Erik Cole almost broke his foot while kicking a soccer ball around during a pre-game ritual?
While the hockey gods have not necessarily been kind to the Hurricanes this training camp, other teams have injuries as well. Both Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney are out for quite awhile in Pittsburgh. Erik Johnson had a controversial golf cart incident which took him out of action for a few months in St. Louis, and groin injuries have spread like a herpes virus around the league.
No matter what the reasons, hockey players will always be getting injured. It's a test to the organization's depth to see if the team can survive the adversity, or falter because of it.