Toughness: The Stanley Cup Meat Grinder and Rookies on Camera


In the classic Arthurian parody “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” King Arthur comes upon the towering Black Knight, who guards a small, unimpressive bridge. Arthur tries to cross, but the knight coldly announces in a strong baritone, “None shall pass!”

After his gentler appeals go unheeded, Arthur ferociously says, “I command you, as King of the Britons, to stand aside!”

The Black Knight, hard and solemn, replies “I move for no man.” And then the swords come out. The larger Black Knight swings his sword with fearsome power, but the good King compensates for the deficit with fine skill. In a few deft moves, Arthur passes the Black Knight’s guard and cleaves his left arm completely off. Arthur stands back, watching blood spurt from the Black Knight’s freshly-cut stump, and says, “Now stand aside, worthy adversary!”


“’Tis but a scratch!” answers the Black Knight, who proceeds to lose his right arm in battle, and then his left leg, and then his right leg, yet never admitting defeat.


We might imagine these two as Jonathan Toews and Zdeno Chara. Before the NHL Stanley Cup Final, Boston was acknowledged as the grittier, more powerful team, while Chicago wielded speed and finesse. It hardly seemed to matter at the first puck drop. The 2013 NHL Final was a war of attrition. Each team laid its very best and most sincere offerings on the altar of competition. The morning after Chicago took the Stanley Cup and the fog of war was lifted, the press lined up to take both coach’s team injury confessions.


The tip of Boston’s spear, Patrice Bergeron, had suffered no less than a separated shoulder, torn cartilage and muscles, and a broken rib, and left the game six defeat with a punctured lung. Brian Bickell played on a nasty knee sprain. Toews had his “bell rung,” but Chicago would never go along with calling his injury a concussion. Among both teams, there were hand problems, knee problems, bad backs and some maladies we’ll just never know about. These guys are cut from a different cloth when it comes to toughness.


That being the case, it’s best not to laugh or mock these giants, especially six-foot-four Isles rookie punisher Griffin Reinhart. We got to catch up with Griffin at the NHLPA Rookie Showcase last year, as well as a few of his talented hockey colleagues, Morgan Rielly and Tyson Barrie. Together they star in another excellent installment in Upper Deck’s Rookie Bootcamp series, this time, looking at hockey toughness. Working with these guys is always really fun, because you get to see them challenged as actors, and that is a special kind of toughness unto itself. Some guys, like Matt Duchene and Ryan Ellis, are like ducks in water when we hit record and its time to be goofy on camera. Other guys get a little nervous. But I will tell you, nervous or not, these guys are all total professionals. They do it for the fans, and they never let you down. Check out Griffin Reinhart, Tyson Barrie and Morgan Rielly as they do their turn, in “Toughness.”

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