Pittsburgh Penguins player development coach Bill Guerin retired from the NHL three years ago, yet he still feels something when he’s around the players during playoff time.
“I get jealous,” Guerin said.
There’s a lot that Guerin, who spent 17 years in the NHL and played in 140 playoff games, misses about the postseason. Winning tops the list, after all Guerin’s name is on the Stanley Cup twice.
But he also misses the passion that comes with playoff hockey - a desire to win that’s so strong that playing playing through injuries isn’t a question.
It’s a given.
Guerin has played through several injuries during the playoffs, including a separated shoulder and a broken foot. The way he looked at it, there was no other choice.
“That’s it. It’s the end of the year and those are injuries you can play with,” Guerin said. “You can ice your foot and you can ice your shoulder. Most of the time it’s not going to get worse. It’s going to hurt, but they’re not going to get much worse.”
Black eyes and facial cuts are common on players during the postseason. They may look like painful injuries, but Guerin said it’s not even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the pain that a player is dealing with in the postseason.
“The facial things that you can see are the least of our problems,” he said. “There’s banged up wrists, broken ribs, it’s out there. Guys are playing hurt all the time.”
One particularly painful injury that Guerin played through was a deep thigh contusion. Despite having only 50 percent of his strength in one leg, Guerin tried to play through the pain.
“I was absolutely horrible and I shouldn’t have played,” he said.
When it comes to playing through injuries and the lengths that players will go through just to be on the ice, Guerin recalls a time when New Jersey Devils teammate Ken Daneyko suffered three broken fingers in the postseason. Daneyko taped the fingers together, cut out the finger slots on his glove and played with something resembling a mitten with a piece of plastic over the top.
“He held his stick with his thumb and pinky,” Guerin said. “I’ve seen a lot in the postseason.”
One reason why fans don’t know about most of the injuries that players deal with in the postseason is they don’t hear about them. Teams are extremely secretive when it comes to injuries so as not to give their opponents a target.
“If a guy has a broken hand, yeah, you might try to slash him on the hand. Shoulders? You have to make sure you finish your hit,” Guerin said.
“If the other team has one of their top defensemen hurt, you’re going to make a point to put (the puck) in his corner and make him pay the price every time.”