Someday, today’s young Bruins fans will be telling their kids about the amazing 2013 playoffs.
They will talk about how Bruins fans first collectively rallied a city blown apart by evil on a Wednesday night in April by taking over National Anthem duties from Rene Rancourt. They will say that was the start of something special. They will talk about a Game 7 comeback against Toronto after Boston was trailing 4-1 when the team scored three, no 10, no 34 goals in the third period to force overtime before beating the Maple Leafs.
They will talk about Game 3 against the Penguins Eastern Conference Finals. How it was a glorious 2-1 double-overtime, gut-wrenching, heart-stopping, bladder crushing playoff victory over Sidney Crosby and his teammates.
But mostly, they will tell their children about how a guy named Gregory Campbell played almost a minute of hockey during a critical power-play with a broken leg.
“Yes, kids, a broken leg. Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury was still out that night after missing five games nursing a sore groin.”
Even in the present, history looms large in this series. When Jaromir Jagr broke into the NHL, Sidney Crosby was a three-year-old baby boy. Turns out he still is.
In the context of Campbell’s performance Wednesday, we decided share some of the memorable moments of Campbell-like in-game “true grit” in the annals of Boston sports. Next
Toughness and heroism are very relative terms. There is real-life toughness and heroism, there is sports toughness and heroism. Adults know the difference. Once in a great while, they cross paths. That was ultimately evident on Marathon Monday. In the world of sports heroism, Campbell offered the textbook definition Wednesday night during a Bruins’ penalty kill for another “too many men on the ice” penalty. There will never be any question of his toughness, real or otherwise.
Campbell took one for the team, in the most literal sense, bearing the full brunt of a Evengy Malkin ICBM launched from his stick. Campbell hit the ice, but then got up complete with what would be determined as a broken leg. His excruciating pain was visible to anyone watching the game. He played 50 seconds of the penalty kill before lumbering on the ice, doing his job without mercy. The Penguins watched in equal disbelief, and seemed almost too stunned to capitalize on it.
The performance triggered the second-loudest cheer of the night. It was the type of play that Bruins fans think of when you say “Bruins.” Campbell has now joined the likes of Terry O’Reilly, Ted Green, Shawn Thornton, Cam Neely, John Wensink, Zdeno Chara and many others when you want to define “Big Bad Bruins.”
Curt Schilling pitched his way permanently into the hearts of Red Sox fans (save for perhaps the tax payers in Rhode Island) with his performance in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. Prior to pitching the game, he underwent a procedure to stabilize a torn tendon sheath in his right ankle and keep it from popping out. The sutures held, but blood seeped out during the game. The images and Schilling’s performance against the Yankees in that due-or-die game make his red sock the most famous piece of hosiery in Red Sox history. Next
The Celtics lost to the Miami Heat in five games during the Eastern Conference finals. But they did not go down without a fight. Boston trailed 0-2 in the series when Rajon Rondo got mixed up with Dwyane Wade. In the ensuing fall, Rondo landed awkwardly and dislocated his elbow.
The gruesome-looking injury left viewers grossed out and temporarily knocked Rondo out the game. He would return later and Boston won 97-81, Rondo beating the Heat with one arm dangling on his side. He tallied six points, 11 assists and a Tommy Award for the ages.
Rondo would average 34 minutes and eight points in games four and five, playing with a heavy brace on his ailing arm. Next
Paul Pierce did his best “Willis Reed” during Game 1 of the 2008 NBA finals at TD Garden. True grit or not-so-true grit. That was hard to tell initially. At the 6:49 mark of the third quarter, Pierce went down and grabbed his knee after an awkward landing.
He was carted off in wheelchair, seemingly along with any shot Boston had at Banner No. 17. Minutes later, Pierce sprinted out of the tunnel. The cheers were so loud at the Garden that the Lakers called a timeout to dampen the frenzy.
Pierce hit a 3-pointer with 1:26 left in the quarter gave Boston the lead for good in the Game 1 victory, and another 3-pointer 22 seconds later from the exact same spot.
The Celtics went on to win the series in six games and Kevin Garnett yelled very loudly. Next
Larry Bird battled chronic back pain and other ailments in the later years of his career, as the original Big Three labored to win that elusive fourth title. The decline in Bird’s abilities mirrored those of the team’s.
Bird’s 1988-89 season ended after just six games when he had surgery to remove bone spurs from both heels. The back issues caused him to miss 59 combined games from 1990-92.
The most dramatic moment of this era came in Game 5 against the Pacers in the 1991 Eastern Conference quarterfinals on May 5. The game was tied 58-58 after Bird had exited after banging his head in the second quarter, laying on the parquet for what seemed like weeks.
Indiana led 82-79 before Bird charged onto the court. All he needed was the “S” on his chest. The Garden crowd went bonkers. Boston went on a 33-14 run before the Pacers came back to cut it one in the final seconds. The Celtics ended up notching a 124-121 victory but would lose to Detroit in the next round. Next
Olympic figure skater and Massachusetts native Nancy Kerrigan may best be (unfairly) most remembered for her cry of “Why? Why? Why?” after she was clubbed on the knee during the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The attack was carried about by hit man Shane Stant, hired by rival skater Tonya Harding. Although Kerrigan had to withdraw from the nationals, she competed for the 1994 US Olympic team in Lillehammer. Kerrigan won a silver medal to go with her bronze from 1992. Harding went to become one of the first viral-trash stars of the Internet era and was last seen somewhere on You Tube. Next
Pedro Martinez had many memorable games with the Red Sox, including his final outing with the team when he dominated the hapless St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the 2004 World Series. Five years earlier, Martinez solidified his place in Red Sox history by fanning five of the first six National League batters in the All-Star Game at Fenway Park.
Later that season, he injured his back pitching Game 1 of the ALDS against Cleveland. In Game 5, after not throwing for a week, he came in with the game tied 8-8 and threw six innings of no-hit relief. Boston moved on to the next round with a 12-8 victory. There were no “daddy” issues that night. Next
NFL safety Rodney Harrison inflicted plenty of pain during his stellar NFL career. Not all of his hits were clean, as Harrison was voted as the league’s “dirtiest player” in a 2004 SI players’ poll.
Harrison wasn’t always clean himself, either, and was suspended for four games in 2007 after admitting to taking HGH. Harrison was able to absorb pain, as well. He showed Campbell-like toughness in his first Super Bowl victory with the Patriots. He tackled DeShaun Foster and broke his forearm during Carolina’s final drive of the game. On the next play, receiver Mushin Muhammad caught an out pass and Harrison pushed him out of bounds.
“I heard my arm crack even more and fell to the ground. I gave everything and I was done,” he said.
Harrison won another Super Bowl with New England the following season, intercepting the last pass thrown by Donovan McNabb to ice the Patriots’ victory. Next
Wes Welker knows how to take a beating. As Tom Brady’s target of choice, Welker carried a bull’s eye on his back in addition to the No. 83. He was tackled, slammed and smacked hundreds of times during his six seasons in New England.
During the AFC championship game this past January, Bernard Pollard (amazingly no relation to Matt Cooke) earned himself a $15,250 fine for a head after a shot he delivered on Welker. Despite Pollard’s cheapshot, the woozy Welker held on to the ball. With the penalty, the ball moved from New England’s 25 to the Ravens’ 36.
Three plays later he dropped a pass that killed the Patriots’ chances to extend their 13-7 lead. Welker remained in the game and finished with eight catches for 117 yards in his final game as a Patriot. He did not acknowledge any injury after the game. But given what we continue to learning about concussions, it’s likely that particular hit will stick with him for a long time. Next
There’s playing through pain. Then there’s playing an entire 19-game NFL season battling in the trenches as an offensive lineman with a torn right ACL.
That’s what Logan Mankins did in 2011. News of Mankins injury, which occurred in the season-opening drubbing of the Dolphins, didn’t come to light until the first week of the 2012 season. Who knew what and when about the injury remains unclear, but it’s certain that by the time Super Bowl XLVI began against the Giants, Mankins had torn ACLs in both knees.
"I could still run, so there was no reason to sit out. There were no MRIs or anything, so we never knew exactly what was hurt. If you can still run and play, there is no reason to go see a doctor, right?" Mankins recalled in 2012 about the first injury.
Think about that the next time Jacoby Ellsbury misses a week with a sore groin. Next
Mankins had to look no further than over his right shoulder at his quarterback for “true grit” inspiration. Tom Brady managed to capture NFL MVP honors in 2010, despite playing the entire season with a stress fracture that required a screw to be implanted in his right foot.
Brady’s injury surfaced on an injury report in November, which means he played at least the entire second half of the season and playoffs through the pain. The Patriots and Brady struggled in their lone postseason game that year, losing to the Jets in Foxborough. Next
Brady was not the first Patriots’ quarterback to play with a pin in his body. Drew Bledsoe, Brady’s predecessor, had surgery on a broken right-index finger and a pin inserted to keep things stable during the 1998 season.
The injury was suffered during a memorable 26-23 Monday night victory over the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 23 in Foxborough. Broken finger and all, Bledsoe found Shawn Jefferson for the game-winning TD with 29 seconds to play.
Six days later, Bledsoe toughed it out again. He led the Patriots to a thrilling 25-21 victory over Buffalo and Doug Flutie that ended with an 82-yard drive and 1-yard TD pass to Ben Coates with no time left. Bledsoe’s season ended with a 32-18 loss to St. Louis two weeks later after he re-injured the finger.
He was replaced by backup and current radio analyst Scott Zolak for the final two games of the season. The Zolak-led Patriots went 1-1 before losing to Jacksonville 25-10 in a wild-card playoff game. Next
Mark Herzlich is the only member of the Super Bowl XLVI winning New York Giants who is universally loved in New England. His story is best summed up by a Tweet he posted after walking off the team plane in Indianapolis six days before the Giants beat New England 21-17:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>2 yrs ago I was told I might never walk again. Just WALKED off plane in Indy to play in The <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23SuperBowl">#SuperBowl</a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/search/%23TakeThatSh">#TakeThatSh</a>*tCancer</p>— Mark Herzlich (@MarkHerzlich) <a href="https://twitter.com/MarkHerzlich/status/164089642717675520">January 30, 2012</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
While playing linebacker for Boston College in 2009, Herzlich was diagnosed with bone cancer, more specifically Ewing’s sarcoma, in his left leg. After aggressive chemotherapy and radiation, he passed on surgery to keep his hopes of playing football alive. He returned to BC in 2010 and played in 13 games. He signed as a free-agent with the Giants in 2011. Next
Yes, linebackers are tough. As the linebacker at the core of the Patriots’ defense, Tedy Bruschi played through pain on a regular basis during his 13-year career.
But his “grit and balls” reached gargantuan-sized status following his NFL comeback following a stroke in 2005. Just 10 days after the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXIX, Bruschi, then 31, woke up with pain in his neck and numbness on his left side. Doctors at Mass General confirmed the stroke.
A blood clot had passed through a small hole in heart, which was surgically repaired a month later. Bruschi initially thought his NFL career was over. He first announced his intention to return in 2006 but made make his return to action on Oct. 30 – just eight months after the stroke—and notched 10 tackles in a 21-16 victory over the Bills.
Bruschi retired prior to the 2009 season and is now an ESPN analyst. Next
While baseball players often carry a well-earned reputation for being soft, especially in comparison to their hockey and football counterparts, the Red Sox have had multiple examples of “true grit” on their roster.
Swampscott’s Tony Conigliaro reached 100 home runs quicker than anyone had in American League history. “Tony C.” was as beloved as they come in this city, even as a teen-ager. Conigliaro was on his way to a monster season in 1967 when Angels pitcher Jack Hamilton hit him in the face with on Aug. 18. He was carried off the field on a stretcher with a broken cheekbone and severe damage to his left retina. He didn’t return until 1969 and eventually retired in 1975 because his eyesight had been permanently damaged.
The true grit of Tony C. can be seen most notably today’s Red Sox roster in Dustin Pedroia, who has played through injury on multiple occasions, and cancer (non-Hodgkin lymphoma) survivor Jon Lester. Next
The Boston Celtics rolled to a 68-14 record during the 1972-73 season and appeared on their way to another championship until John Havlicek severely injured his right shoulder in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Knicks.
He was given a standing ovation by the crowd in New York before Game 4, which the Celtics lost in double-overtime. Hondo returned in Game 5, scoring 18 points in Boston’s 98-97 victory.
The Celtics won Game 6 before losing the series in seven games. Next
Kevin McHale epitomized Hondo’s “true grit” during his days with the Celtics. In 1987, the Celtics and McHale were defending with NBA title without hesitation. Phoenix’s Larry Nance fractured McHale’s foot by stepping on it.
McHale, who would conduct his postgame interviews while soaking his feet in a tub full of ice, continued to play because the break was misdiagnosed. The injury was finally revealed via X-rays during a first-round sweep of Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
McHale continued to play, averaging 21.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in the postseason playing (figuratively of course) on one foot. Back to the beginning
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