It’s a sight no one playing on or rooting for either team wants to see: a lone hockey player lying face-down, unmoving, long after play has continued down ice. At yesterday’s Boston Bruins game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Patrice Bergeron collided with opposing defenseman Dennis Seidenberg and lay on the ice for a heart-stopping handful of minutes while fans and players alike were silenced, holding our collective breath while watching for any sign of movement.
During that heart-stopping handful of minutes we all watched Bergeron’s lifeless body, I flashed through other heart-stopping Boston sports moments: the face-first slam against the boards that took Bergeron out for an entire season last October, for example, or the heartbreaking moment in 1995, when Travis Roy was paralyzed from the neck down only 11 seconds into his Boston University hockey career. Outside hockey, there’s the image of Celtics captain Reggie Lewis collapsing during an off-season basketball practice in 1993, dead from a sudden heart-attack at the age of 27. Sports fans thrill at the sight of honed bodies performing at their best; we don’t expect the young and strong to fall victim to the random vicissitudes of injury or accident.
Travis Roy (just like Superman!) went on to establish a charitable foundation for victims of spinal cord injuries, there is an inner-city track and athletic complex commemorating Reggie Lewis, and Patrice Bergeron eventually regained consciousness, slowly regained his feet, and skated off the ice with the help of a handful of teammates. There is, in other words, hope after any one of us–young or old, strong or weak, in shape or out–suffers injury or accident. In Zen, we say “fall down six times, get up seven”: it’s not about never failing, but always getting up to try again, and again, and again…somehow. You can’t keep a tough player down, especially if he has an entire team of friends helping him to his feet again, and that applies both on and off the ice, in hockey and beyond.