Considering how improbable it was for the Vancouver Canucks to score three 5-on-3 goals in a two minute span, perhaps it only makes sense that the last two of those goals came from such an improbable source.
There were more than a few times this season when many people though Sami Salo’s 13-year NHL career was over. Salo himself pondered retirement during the painful recovery process from a ruptured Achilles tendon. In many ways, Salo has been the Wile E. Coyote of hockey players, stumbling through injuries that have been random, painful and … yes, a bit comical (see: testicle, ruptured left).
As rough and fast a sport as hockey is, Salo has been one of those guys who just cannot catch a break, unless it’s in the more literal “broken bone” sense. Just take a look at how Salo suffered that ruptured Achilles tendon last summer, as he told Mark Spector of Sportsnet.ca.
“It’s a routine we have. We play every Thursday floor ball (in Finland), a very popular sport in Scandinavia. All the guys from all over Europe. I got a D-to D-pass, took a hard sprint, and just flew face first. Nobody was even close. I just fell down. The Achilles had ruptured. Somebody said it sounded like a shotgun.
“Went to the private clinic, where the doctor said it was most likely completely torn.”
It’s easy to treat Salo like a walking, hard-shooting punchline. Yet after you hear more about his resiliency in the face of a demoralizing and painful injury, it’s also easy to root for the Finnish blueliner.
“It is like climbing Mount Everest,” he said. “Very small steps from Day 1 after the surgery, all the way up to the time in December when I started skating. You didn’t see any progress on a daily basis, even sometimes on a weekly basis.
“When it actually happened it wasn’t painful at all. It was just a weird feeling.”
Then again, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Salo remains borderline unflappable. He fashioned an outstanding NHL career for himself despite long odds. A 13-year career isn’t half-bad for the 239th overall pick of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft and two power-play goals in one game isn’t too shabby for a guy who wasn’t far from retirement, either.
Perhaps the biggest question might be: would he injure himself while lifting the Stanley Cup? We might just get the chance to find out.