Monday, October 11, 2010

Sometimes We Forget

Tonight, watching Jason Pominville down on the ice after a brutally dirty hit by Niklas Hjalmarsson, I was reminded of something that I think we as fans are guilty of forgetting every now and then.

Athletes are real people, and real people are vulnerable.

In those moments when he lay still on the ice, surrounded by doctors, I was honestly terrified. Anyone who visits this blog at all knows how I feel about Pommer. He may not play my favorite style of hockey, but he is one of my favorite players anyway. He won me over by being one of the nicest people - professional athlete or otherwise - that I have had the pleasure of meeting. I have his jersey, and I am proud to wear it.

I've never had a moment like that before, seeing one of my favorite players in what looked like grave danger on the ice, literally praying for him to be okay.

Seeing him on that stretcher, all I could think about was Jason Pominville as a person - a husband and a father, a best friend to many of the guys on that Sabres bench.

All of the guys on that bench are people, and people are vulnerable.

Should the team have bounced back after that hit, especially after learning that he would be okay? Yes. It was frustrating to watch them crumble tonight.

But is it understandable that their minds seemed to be elsewhere for a long time after seeing their teammate, their friend, carted off the ice on a stretcher? I think it is.

I don't know Pommer beyond a 10-minute conversation we had three years ago, and I was still worried, even after learning he suffered a concussion but would be alright. The other players on the team know him - as Heather B. put it in her great post tonight, they love him; they love each other.

You could see how hard that injury hit the players just by looking at Miller's face as the doctors tended to Pommer. He looked on the verge of tears, worry and fear all over his face. I like to talk about the trio of Miller, Gaustad, and Pomiville and the core of players from Rochester that grew up together, and it is clear that they do genuinely care about one another. They are best friends, and I think it is more than excusable to fall off your game a little after seeing something like that happen to one of your best friends, a guy you grew up with and grew to love like a brother.

Would I have liked this to be one of those wins where the Sabres gave a shaken crowd something to cheer about, something positive to take home with them? Of course. But sometimes, athletes aren't superheroes, able to overcome whatever is thrown at them. Sometimes, they're simply human.

There will be a time to talk about the powerplay and the defensive lapses and the missed offensive chances. For me, at least, tonight is not that time. I'm mad about the outcome of the game, but I'm incredibly happy that the news on Pommer seems to be very positive.

I'll save the criticism for another game. I know it's cliche, but they're only human.

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