Nose woes can’t stop hockey heroes

Never let a little thing like a broken nose stop you. That’s the philosophy Petr Sykora will take into Pittsburgh’s Friday-night opener at Carolina.

After suffering the injury in a collision with teammate Brooks Orpik in exhibition play in Montreal, the 30-year-old Czech winger will wear a full face shield for protection. Although Sykora was sidelined for more than a week following corrective surgery on September 21, his refusal to miss his first Penguins regular season appearance alongside Sidney Crosby is just another memorable moment in NHL nasal history.

The importance of the nose in hockey isn’t always recognized by journalists, fans, coaches, or even players. People are more likely to discuss Maxim Afinogenov’s crazy legs or Jason Spezza’s soft hands.

But think about it: what club wouldn’t want a hard-nosed player with a nose for the net who’ll stick his nose in there and get his nose dirty?

In fact, the three forwards with the best-known noses in NHL history have three things in common: more than 800 league games, more than 900 PIM, and at least one Stanley Cup ring apiece. Can’t turn your nose up at that.

Eddie Shack: 1047 games, 1439 PIM, 4 Stanley Cups
Tim Hunter: 815 games, 3142 PIM, 1 Stanley Cup
Mike Ricci: 1099 games, 979 PIM, 1 Stanley Cup

Different lore surrounds each of these prominent proboscises.

Shack was nicknamed “The Nose” during his playing career, and he took advantage of it. In the 1970’s, the former Toronto Maple Leaf fan favorite landed an endorsement deal with a Canadian soft drink company named The Pop Shoppe. In their ads, he proclaimed: “I’ve got a nose for value!”

One might have thought Hunter’s monstrous nose acquired its look during his 1980’s heyday with the Calgary Flames, when he regularly had it bashed by Edmonton enforcers like Dave Semenko and Marty McSorley. However, the current San Jose Sharks assistant coach surprisingly claims his nose was never broken in his 16-year career.

Mike Ricci wasn’t as lucky. When a deflected shot broke Ricci’s nose in Phoenix’s 2005-06 opener against Minnesota, it was the fourth time in his career that the former #4 overall pick of the Philadelphia Flyers had experienced that indignity.

Hockey’s most notorious movie stars stood up for their super-sized schnozzes with the Johnstown Jets of the Eastern Hockey League. Jeff and Steve Carlson, better known as the Hanson Brothers in 1977’s Slap Shot, were once confronted by the sight of the rival Binghamton Dusters taking their pre-game warmup with big plastic noses and glasses on. The two brother pugilists didn’t take kindly to such mockery, and a brawl ensued off the opening faceoff.

A nose-related incident also cemented Canada’s reputation as the homeland of goon hockey among Swedish fans for years. During the 1972 Summit Series, Team Canada hit Sweden for two exhibition games prior to the final four clashes in the USSR. Ken Dryden described the critical sequence in the second Tre Kronor tilt in his book Face-Off at the Summit. It was a moment that, in the media, overshadowed the slicing open of Wayne Cashman’s tongue by Ulf Sterner’s stick, and arguably helped consolidate Canada’s it’s-us-against-the-world feeling en route to beating the Russians:

In the last period, with about six minutes left in the game, Vic Hadfield caught Lars-Erik Sjoberg with a high stick and cut him around the nose. Sjoberg gave it the real Hollywood performance for about five minutes. He waved off the trainer, then started to skate slowly toward his bench as the blood streamed unchecked from his nose. The fans were screaming at Hadfield, who was in the penalty box by now, and then Sjoberg changed his course and skated past the penalty box himself. With one hand he waved at Hadfield, and with the other he pointed to his bleeding nose. Finally he went to his bench for a few minutes before taking a seat on the bench. After the next whistle, Sjoberg left the bench and skated ever so slowly toward his dressing room, all the time holding a towel not on the bloody nose but in his hand. The crowd cheered Sjoberg as he left the ice. Was he finished with his act? No. Playing the hero’s role perfectly, he waited at the bottom of the ramp so the Swedish photographers could take pictures of the nose from a zillion different angles.

Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, who scored 393 goals with Montreal and the Rangers, might not have been impressed with Sjoberg’s demeanor, since Geoffrion broke his nose a whopping nine times in his playing days.

Geoffrion, of course, was classier than current NHL super-pest Sean Avery, whose nose was broken by former teammate Kirk Maltby in a 2005 brawl. In a Maxim interview the following year, Avery described Maltby’s beak-busting blow as a “really, really giant bitch slap.”

Just as NHLers will tell you about fighting, nose woes have always been a part of the game.

That’s probably why EA Sports introduced an option to customize players’ faces with broken noses in their NHL 06 video game.

Finally, and most importantly, remember that without this underrated body part, goalies would look very different today. (No, that doesn’t mean like Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter movies.) It harkens back to the days of pioneers like Clint Benedict and Jacques Plante. In 1930, Benedict became the first NHL goalie to don a mask while playing for the Montreal Maroons, and he did it to protect a broken nose. In 1959, Plante became more famous for putting on his fiberglass face protector one November night against the Rangers–after Andy Bathgate had cut his nose with a wicked shot.

In Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac, the title character’s love life suffers due to his nose. But this season, Petr Sykora and other NHLers will demonstrate that no nose woes can stop them from seeking a sniff at Stanley Cup glory. Digg it Furl iFeedReaders Netscape RawSugar reddit StumbleUpon Yahoo MyWeb YardBarker

Leave a Reply