The worst thing about playing pro hockey is this: the end might come at any moment and there’s a good chance you won’t even see it coming.
You might say that that applies to all of us. No one knows the day nor the hour, right? Any one of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow. There is a level of chaos inherent in existence, and some of that chaos is potentially fatal to both livelihood and life.
But be realistic: the chances of a random, catastrophic accident befalling an ordinary individual are pretty small. For most people, the changes that might wreck us are the kind of changes we see coming a little ways off. If I work a dangerous job, I know the moments when accidents are most likely and what direction the risk lies. If I have a health problem, I know a fair bit about my trouble, treatment, and eventual prognosis. Maybe I couldn’t tell you precisely what will lay me low or when, but I could probably give you the gist of it. The risk in my life, and likely in yours, is within the realm of predictability.
The risk in hockey, however, is not wholly predictable, and often unpredictable in sudden and devastating ways. In fact, given all the rules, all the training, and all the padding, the most horrible damage is often of the accidental variety. The game provides equations for expected damage- the puck to the nuts you risk from facing down a slapshot, the concussion that’s likely to result from having your head low in the presence of Raffi Torres- but there is so much trauma left outside the arithmetic of risk. Taylor Hall never laced up his skates thinking, tonight perhaps a teammate will stomp on my head with a skate blade. Richard Zednick never thought, well, sometimes you battle along the boards and your carotid gets cut open, that’s just part of the game.
And I rather doubt Blake Geoffrion expected that a perfectly clean, ass-to-body hipcheck would leave him with a hole in his skull the size of a silver dollar and a hole in his hockey future the size, perhaps, of forever.