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Ray Ratto perfectly skewers NHL’s pain-glorification problem

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There’s nothing noble about playing through pain.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Edmonton Oilers at San Jose Sharks John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Logan Couture stepped onto the ice without the extra bit of facial apparatus we’d almost become accustomed to to start game three last night. My first thought wasn’t, “what a brave young man.” It was, “what the hell does he think he’s doing?”

Couture, who lost a whole bunch of teeth and is playing through an immense amount of pain, is taking a risk by playing without the mask. He said as much himself and his decision to play without the extra bit of protection to increase his performance is the latest example of the NHL’s bravado gone wrong.

Ray Ratto has long been the best, and perhaps least appreciated, writer in the Bay Area. He’s undoubtedly the best Twitter user, though perhaps more appreciated for his cutting wit and grand fashion than wisdom and wonderful writing, but his latest article encapsulates what’s harmful about the Please Like My Sport surrounding the NHL.

The culture of celebrating facial and head injuries in hockey has always been the most cringeworthy part of the sport. It is as if the photo certifies a player as officially tough to the point of insanity about the one part of the body that should be most protected and concerned about.

Knowing what we know and are continuing to learn about CTE and other brain injuries, though, the rush to return to action (Werenski) or to get rid of protective equipment (Couture) doesn’t seem quite so noble any more. This isn’t bruise porn, which some people suggest it might be, but it is a new default position for head injuries, as in, “Hey, cool, blood! But what about that brain?”

It takes a bit of the vicarious fun out of the whole process.

You should read the article in its entirety (I linked it above), but while I think both Couture and Joe Thornton playing in this series is at best a bit reckless, seeing the center go without the mask is something worse. Frankly, Couture’s play didn’t improve last night even without the inhibition of some extra fiberglass, so perhaps it’s time to throw that sucker back on — just in case.

Regardless of this specific situation, go give Ratto some clicks and then tell him how much you like his writing. Think how mad he’s going to be.