Hockey players are certainly a different breed.
At the conclusion of every season, or playoff series, fans are often left stunned at the laundry list of injuries players skate through. For example, after the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, Boston Bruins fans were shocked to learn that forward Patrice Bergeron played through the following injuries: A broke rib, torn rib cartilage, a separate shoulder, and a pinhole puncture in his lung.
That leads us to Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler. Wheeler is set to return to the ice on Friday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, after missing five weeks due to a, well, ruptured testicle. Wheeler suffered the injury in a game against the Nashville Predators, when he inadvertently blocked a shot by teammate Josh Morrissey. Wheeler returned to that game for the third period, but underwent surgery for the injury.
At the time, his coach praised him for his toughness. “He’s one tough cookie,” Jets head coach Rick Bowness said about the fact Wheeler returned to the game.
However, this is not the first time Wheeler has put all of his body on the line for the Jets. During the 2021 playoffs, Wheeler blocked an Edmonton Oilers shot with his groin in Game 4, and immediately left the ice:
Blake Wheeler left for the locker room after blocking this shot from Kris Russell. pic.twitter.com/cVYkW2ULY7— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 25, 2021
Winnipeg would go on to sweep the series by winning in overtime, with Wheeler having returned to the ice for the extra frame.
“I mean, everyone on our team did that all series long, all game long. The first shift of the game we put an emphasis on getting in front of shots from the point, and Matty Perreault blocked two shots. So that then and there set the standard that every single guy was going to put their body in front of the puck. And third period in a tight game, you’ll put anything in front of it.
“I’ve got three beautiful kids and we’re not having any more, so what the hell.”
Wheeler had a somewhat different tune when returning to the Jets this week. The forward indicated that he did not know the extent of the injury in December until the next day: “There’s a difference between being hurt and being injured. I didn’t know I was injured until the next day,” he told reporters.
Still, yet more evidence that hockey players are indeed a bit different than the rest of us mere mortals.