Between the speed, the sanctioned fighting, the big sticks, and the matter of knives affixed to feet, hockey offers regular opportunities for in-game injury on a scale that few other sports can match. Washington Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny has certainly availed himself of those in the past, as much or more so than many of his peers. This man has been concussed. He has torn his hamstring. While training this past October, he suffered an Achilles injury that’s kept him out for the regular season. It’s the usual brutal stuff.
And then there have been the weird ones, the ones that do not happen in the natural course of hockey business. The Capitals blog Russian Machine Never Breaks has chronicled these well: Kempny has slipped on a puck and collided with the boards during pregame warmups, and has taken a puck to the face during a different set of pregame warmups, and also once required a bandage after being hugged too hard.
The Caps have the oldest roster in the NHL, and already have an alarming number of guys nursing injuries as they head into the playoffs. On Friday, they sent Kempny to their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, for a conditioning stint; the idea, most likely, was that he might be able to return to provide the team with some defensive depth if they need it. But in Hershey, Kempny has continued to elevate his injury game, discovering bizarre and uncharted opportunities for pain that have gone beyond his stellar work in that area at the NHL level. The culprit, this time, was a member of the rink’s ice crew, those delightful and sometimes balletic people who clean up accumulated snow during stoppages in play.
Kempny left midway through the second period of the Bears’ game against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Saturday after a collision with an ice shoveler and did not return. “Chalk that up to the weird, weird things of this year,” Bears coach Spencer Carbery told media after the game. “He actually made incidental contact with one of the ice scrapers, believe it or not, which I’ve never seen before. It was just a completely unfortunate incident when one of the ice shovelers was coming by the bench, they got tangled up and Kemps had to leave the game.” The coach would add, “I don’t think it’s too, too bad.” Not really reassuring anyone with that ominous extra “too,” sir.
The inscrutable-to-me code of hockey, I think, dictates that one of Kempny’s teammates must fight the shovel. Slightly more scrutable divine providence suggests that Kempny is maybe not meant to play hockey, and should take a hint and retire immediately. I am sorry. It’s for your own safety.