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PRINCIPE: No Pain, No Gain

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
- Photo by Andy Devlin | Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club

It has to be one of the most painful yet gratifying jobs in hockey. Deciding that in order to protect your net or your goalie that you will sacrifice yourself and your body for the good of the team. It is the most extreme opposite to selfish when a player is so selfless to risk harm to help put his team in a better position to succeed. It takes a special — and most importantly — incredible, brave person to do the job of being a shot blocker in the NHL.

The Oilers have a few of the above who would fall into the category of crazy — like a good crazy and maybe a necessary one. Listen, there aren't many of us that would decide that standing, flopping or diving in front of a frozen disc of rubber going at 90-100 miles per hour would be a sane thing to do. We can all dream of making a saucer pass to set up a game-winning goal, breaking up a two-on-one with a diving defensive play, scoring a Stanley Cup winning goal or making a breakway stop in overtime. However, Matt Hendricks, Boyd Gordon and Mark Fayne, just to name a few, don't seem to mind and understand that to have the above moments occur there has to be a buy-in and sacrifice.

In the 2006 Stanley Cup run and during the buildup that season, the Oilers would often pull out the soft orange pucks and have players practice their shot blocking style. It was one of the reasons Edmonton advanced to the Cup Final. This group doesn't appear to need the orange pucks because they've graduated right to the black ones. I also believe that shot blocking can spread through a team. When you see a teammate make that kind of sacrifice, it can only inspire others who aren't normally shot blockers to work outside their comfort zone. Dropping down once in awhile or squaring up to a point shot to help the team in a different way. I don't expect, and I'm sure the Oilers don't want, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle sliding all over the ice trying to block shots but when they do make that decision it's another way for them to help the Oilers succeed.

It's one thing when you’re three to five feet in front of an impending shot and you lay down to make the block but the shot block that sticks out for me happened versus Montreal. PK Subban was at the point and winding up for a howitzer. Much of the general public would have been headed to the farthest and safest corner of the rink. Boyd Gordon, who was halfway between the Oilers net and the blueline, just stood there and took it like a man. More like a Superman in my opinion. It ended up cracking his shin pad on the knee cap. Thankfully, that's the only thing that cracked on Gordon. An inspiring play that helped lead Edmonton to a win. The shots always seem to hurt less in victory than in defeat but for shot blocking the old adage of 'No Pain, No Gain' truly does apply.

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