Stanley Cup: playing through pain

Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk in Game 5 joined a long list of hockey players who bounced back from injury to make a contribution in the Stanley Cup final.
Detroit Red Wings players said the return of Pavel Datsyuk in Game 5 from a foot injury was key in the team's 5-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. ((Paul Sancya/Associated Press))

Pavel Datsyuk came back from a seven-game injury absence in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final with two assists in Detroit's 5-0 romp over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

After the game, teammates raved about what the two-way Russian start brings to the table.

"He’s a great player and he sure proved it," said Daniel Cleary. "His ability to hang on to the puck and not panic, it’s amazing.

"He handled the puck, he was skating well and he was physical."

Datsyuk, who had a foot injury, joined an illustrious list of players who bounced back from pain to contribute in a Stanley Cup final. The following is a list of some of those greats who grit their teeth and soldiered on:

Bobby Baun, 1964

Baun scored one of the most famous NHL goals in Game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup final against the Detroit Red Wings. Tied 3-3 in the third, Baun was on the receiving end of the Gordie Howe slap shot, which an X-ray revealed to be a broken bone in his lower right leg after the game. In the dressing room he had the ankle numbed and taped. He then scored the overtime time goal that tied the series before the Leafs went on to win Game 7 and the Cup.

Mike Bossy, 1980

The Islanders would have been hard-pressed to win the first of their four Stanley Cups without their sniper, who had just completed his third consecutive 50-goal season. There was worry early in the first half of their playoff run when Bossy jammed his thumb. He would return without missing a beat, scoring a pair in Game 4 of a second round series over Boston. Despite missing five games, the right wing finished with 10 goals and 13 assists in 20 games, second on the Isles only to Conn Smyth winner and linemate Bryan Trottier.

Paul Coffey, 1987

Coffey missed a quarter of the 1986-87 season due to a back injury that limited his ability to create plays from the back end, his specialty. The smooth skating Edmonton defenceman would miss four of 21 playoff games, finishing with three goals and eight assists. The numbers may have looked ho-hum for the brilliant Coffey, but he got better as the playoffs went on, scoring in a Game 1 victory and setting up the overtime winner in Game 2 of the team's seven-game triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers in the final.

Johan Franzen, 2008

Franzen missed the last five games of the Western Conference final against the Dallas Stars and Game 1 versus the Pittsburgh Penguins due to a concussion. But Franzen scored a goal and added two assists in five games against Pittsburgh. His biggest presence was continually putting his big body in front of Marc-Andre Fleury, proving to be a constant pain to the Penguins goaltender and helping Detroit win the Cup in six games.

Adam Graves, 1994

During Game 2 of the opening round against the New York Islanders, Graves suffered a 10-stitch cut above his right eye and a broken nose. Despite his injuries, Graves finished fifth in team scoring with 10 goals and 17 points. In Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final against the Vancouver Canucks, Graves played a vital role in the Rangers’ first title in 54 years, scoring a goal and an assist.

Mario Lemieux, 1991

Lemieux underwent back surgery to repair a disk and missed 50 games of the regular season. Despite being in constant pain, the Penguins captain dominating the post-season, leading the NHL with 44 points and 16 goals. Even though he missed one game of the final, Lemieux notched five goals and 12 points to lead the Penguins to their first Stanley Cup title over the Minnesota North Stars. CBC Sports Hall of Fame broadcaster Dick Irvin regarded Lemieux’s performance as the single-most dominant display by one player he had ever seen.

Adam Graves, left, and Trevor Linden both battled through pain to get to the Stanley Cup final that pitted the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. ((Mike Powell/Allsport/Getty Images))
Trevor Linden, 1994

Linden played with cracked ribs and a torn rib cartilage during the last four games of the of the Stanley Cup final against the New York Rangers. Still, he was one of Vancouver’s best players. During the famous Game 7 in New York, Linden scored both goals for the Canucks, who lost 3-2.

Mike Modano, 1999

Modano, who recorded two assists in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final against the Buffalo Sabres, left the next contest with around 10 minutes to play after suffering a broken wrist. But Modano didn’t just play the rest of the series — he thrived. The American registered another five assists in the final three games, including two in Game 6, with his final helper coming on Brett Hull’s infamous goal to win the Cup. 

Maurice Richard, 1952

During the seventh game of the Stanley Cup semifinal against the Boston Bruins, Maurice "The Rocket" Richard suffered a concussion and was apparently knocked of the game — or so everyone thought. But the Rocket returned for the third period to score the winning goal. On the play, he skated end-to-end, through Bruin players, before beating goaltender Sugar Jim Henry. There is a famous photo of a bloodied Richard shaking hands with Henry after the series.

Steve Yzerman, 2002

Yzerman limped into the 2002 Olympics with a bad knee that forced him to miss 30 games of the regular season. After helping Canada win gold, Yzerman rested the knee until the post-season. There, he finished second in playoffs with 23 points, four behind Colorado’s Peter Forsberg, including four assists in the final against Carolina. Yzerman and the Wings won their third title in five years. In the fall, Yzerman endured a knee realignment surgery known as osteotomy, a procedure normally done on the elderly.