Imagine spending about $100 to see a Minnesota Wild game only to find out Mikko Koivu, Eric Staal, Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund wouldn’t be playing. You can’t, right? While NBA stars like Lebron James sit out entire games to prepare for the playoffs, NHL stars take sticks and fists to the face down the stretch.
Parise may very well miss some time thanks to a high stick to the face delivered by Tom Wilson in Tuesday night’s game between the Wild and league-leading Washington Capitals. After Wilson served his two minutes, Wild winger Chris Stewart came to his teammate’s defense, dropped the gloves, and bloodied Wilson’s face in a fight that continued after both players fell to the ice. With six games left, Wild players are bleeding while basketball players rest.
A basketball fan might argue that basketball players play more minutes, but I assure you the nearly 28 minutes Ryan Suter played Tuesday night are more tasking than the 38 Lebron plays -- when he does play. Lebron runs up and down a court that is a fourth the length of a hockey rink and doesn’t take hits into the boards or sticks to the face.
I’m not actually against anyone resting. I think resting players is smart, especially on grueling road trips and during back-to-back games, but you can rest and still give the fans a product for which they paid. Instead of sitting every minute of a game, sit half of the game and then sit half of the next game. If you’re suffering from a nagging injury, just announce it well before game time so fans purchasing tickets for individual games don’t waste their money watching D-league players.
I don’t think I’ve seen a more contentious and competitive regular season basketball game than the Wild/Capitals hockey game I saw Tuesday night, and I appreciate that the NHL and the sport of hockey doesn’t easily allow for its stars to sit out entire games. Sure, I’d love for Zach Parise to be healthy entering the playoffs, but Parise probably wants to be on the ice. That’s what Lebron should want -- to be on the court playing the game he loves -- even in games that don’t matter.