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Morrison's Dilemma - MAR.10.08


Chuck Stanley

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<table align="center" border="0" width="80%"><tbody><tr><td><img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/02/chuckstanley_sm.jpg" align="left" hspace="4">For two years before he went on the disabled list, Brendan Morrison was cursed by being “hurt but not too hurt”. He had his share of nagging injuries, a hip injury and a sports hernia for starters, but nothing severe enough to definitely keep him out of the line-up. As Morrison prepares to return to the Canucks, I thought about how difficult it must be for athletes to decide when to heal and when to play through the pain. It’s a decision that often has huge ramifications on the player’s team and his career.

Most Canadian hockey fans love the idea of guys playing through pain. They admire the tough, gritty warrior who guts it out and gives 100% every shift. Stories about players scoring overtime goals on a broken leg are part of hockey lore. If a player goes on injured reserve too often, or with a “borderline” injury, they’re seen as soft or unwilling to pay the price. However, a player like Morrison, who played with pain almost every night, was often criticized by fans for his lack of productivity. You’re either labelled as productive but soft, or tough but underachieving. Pick your poison.

<a href="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/11/nov0807_col@van03_b.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/11/nov0807_col@van03_t.jpg" align="right" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a>Before deciding how to handle a “borderline” injury, a player has his next contract to think about. If he goes on injured reserve for 8-12 weeks to let a hip injury properly heal, will he be seen as soft and injury prone at free agent time, or will NHL GMs see him as a productive player when he was actually on the ice? If he toughs it out and plays through the pain, will he get lower contract offers because of decreased productivity? Will he be rewarded for his toughness and character?

The player’s decision may also cost his GM when it comes to trades. Is a player’s trade value high because he is a gutsy, character guy that any team would want? Is he a player that has diminished trade value because he hasn’t had the jump or scored the goals the way he did when he was healthy? Would the trade value of a player who plays through those nagging injuries be helped or hindered?

<a href="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/03/MAR0608_CanuckPractice11_b.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/03/MAR0608_CanuckPractice11_t.jpg" align="left" border="0" hspace="4" vspace="1"></a>Finally, the players have to think about life after hockey. Maybe if they play through that nagging, minor injury they’ll get another contract, make a little more money and retire more comfortably. On the other hand, there’s a long list of ex-athletes who are living in constant pain due to the injuries they sustained in professional sports. Only the athlete can decide whether “sucking it up” is worth the risk to their future quality of life.

Brendan Morrison has been in a tough spot for the last few years. His injuries really put him in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. Only he can decide what’s best for him and his career. All I can do as a fan is welcome a healthy Brendan back to the line-up and hope he can provide some of that offensive spark this team sorely needs.

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