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No Guts, No Glory For Boyce

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Hockey quote of the year.

Darryl Boyce is in the Leafs dressing room at Master Card Centre, explaining that the broken nose he incurred when hit headfirst into the boards by the Flyers’ Jody Shelley is a little problematic.

“It’s more or less just trying to get passages to breathe through with my nose,” he said. “It’s a little clogged up. As long as I am able to breathe I should be OK.”

As long as I am able to breathe, I should be OK.

Ladies and germs, there is your game. An undersized 27-year-old plugger from PEI who last year Tweeted pictures of that battered nose being re-assembled gets back into the game in the third period.

“It was just a minor setback up there in the second,” Boyce said, sounding a little apologetic. “I just had to make clear everything was up there in the head.”

Now go back to the tape. You will see Boyce beat everyone to the puck . Shelley cruises up behind him and shoves Boyce, catapulting him into the boards.

That’s the bad. With all the talk of head injuries and respect and suspensions, of Sidney Crosby and a new head shot rule and the summer of the concussions, Shelley, a player with 18 goals and 1,600 penalty minutes accrued over nearly 600 games, drove his elbow into the small of Boyce’s back with the blue number 47 as visible to Shelley as neon.

Second best hockey quote of the year, again from Boyce: “The game is so fast with all the split second decisions, I’m sure he didn’t mean to do it.”

There it is. A careless, perhaps wicked move from a player whose reputation within the game absolved any notion of malice.

“I know Jody, I coached him a number of years,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson.

Wilson said he knew Shelley was remorseful.  Players live on the margin of catastrophe, giving it or receiving it. Sometimes, emotion clouds judgment, Wilson said.”You stop thinking for just a split second.”

The thin red line is where none of us can go.  It belongs to the players the same way 350 km/h belongs to Indy Car drivers.

Unless you are there it’s impossible to know what it is like…and how you would react.

That’s the truth of it.

“It’s tough to just look on tape and slow it down and stuff like that,” Boyce said.

“It’s definitely not that slow when you are out there on the ice.”

When you add ice to the game, the only thing that doesn’t speed up, that can’t speed up, is judgment. It reveals itself over a millisecond and then mutates into something different in the next. It is as human as human nature gets and it is therefore often ugly, especially when reviewed frame by video frame.

But give a little time and the game’s other pillar value, grace, comes into play. Boyce bears Shelley no malice. His linemate Jay Rosehill immediately jumped into the fray and pumped right hands into Shelley’s face, probably as the Flyers veteran was processing what he had done a moment before.  Shelley understood.

In hockey terms, everyone did their job. Boyce played fearlessly. Shelley, who earns his keep by driving his body into other people’s sternums, picked the wrong moment. Rosehill did his piece. Thursday, Brendan Shanahan, the league’s new master of discipline will do his. Shelley declined to attend the hearing in Toronto. He would not fly to offer excuses. He knows what he did.

Boyce, meanwhile, just wants a job.

“He ripped half his nose off (last year) and he still came back and played,” Wilson said. “You can say all hockey players do that. Not all hockey players do that.”

Not all hockey players spend every moment on the ice trying to stay.

Boyce said it all and along the way gave the journeyman’s creed.

As long as he is able to breathe, he should be ok.

Notes: Tim Connolly was given the day away from the rink for personal reasons. He will play Friday as the Leafs host the Sabres…After two goals in Philadelphia, rookie Matt Frattin says he is skating more easily. “It’s definitely a confidence booster. You want that first quick one of the year and just kind of build on that.”…One of the luxuries of the MasterCard Centre? The abundance of ice allowed the Leafs to walk over to a fresh sheet across the hall near the end of practice... The Leafs coach feels veteran Matt Lombardi is probably ahead of Sidney Crosby in recovering from concussion. Lombardi feels better with each day and will be re-examined next week ... Wilson has been impressed with Carl Gunnarsson’s good start. The Swedish defenceman started slowly last year and was scratched 13 times before resuscitating his season in the New Year. “He is in a battle and I wasn’t sure how he would respond to that but he’s played really well,” Wilson said.
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