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Ben Smith

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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock is cared for by Komets athletic trainer Shawn Dundon after taking a hit from a Rapid City player in the playoffs.

Hits in hockey travel fine line

Schrock

The last time we saw Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, here’s what he was doing:

1. Pantomiming a golf swing on the opening faceoff against the headed-for-the-offseason Dayton Gems, which of course led to a fight.

2. Chirping endlessly at whomever was within chirping distance, trying to incite … well, whatever.

3. Pounding lumps on Rapid City’s Dominic D’Amour (a two-round majority decision), and Scott Wray (a first-round TKO).

So he’s our guy, of course, for today’s little seminar.

The subject: Violence in sports.

Bounties. Former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and his anatomy lessons (“Here is the head. Hit it. Here is the ACL. Hit that, too”). The coach as Bruno Tattaglia, dispatching his goons to take out Sonny Corleone at the toll booth.

Schrock’s gotta know all about that, right?

Not so much, it turns out.

To be sure, he’s a physical guy in another physical sport – he led the Komets with 12 penalty minutes against Rapid City, and pound-for-pound no one in the CHL is more adept when the gloves drop – and he’s also a huge pro football fan. But here he comes now off the ice at the end of practice, and you bring up bounties and Williams and that whole sordid business, and he shakes his head and goes a little quiet.

“No,” he says. “I’ve never had a coach that’s done that (told him to injure another player). It’s unfortunate that has to happen in a pro sport. There’s so much money on the line.”

And such a fine line, too, between intent and simply playing the game the way it was meant to be played. Hockey is not football, but it, too, is a game of hitting; no one who watched the Rapid City series or the first two games of the conference finals against Missouri would ever walk away thinking otherwise. And so the approach to its physical nature is very much the same.

“I don’t think you’re ever intentionally trying to hurt somebody,” is how Schrock puts it. “But I will say that in the playoffs, you never want to not finish a hit. You could hurt them when you do that, but there’s not really an intent to injure.

“Now, if I have a knee injury and the other team finds out about it, they can do little things, just to antagonize. You never want to give the other team a sniff of anything. That’s just the way it is. You’re trying to win a game. So you don’t want to give them any advantage, because you never know what can happen.”

No, you don’t. You hit a guy, and he catches a skate blade, and, boom, his ACL explodes. Or he ducks at the last minute, and you catch him in the head instead of the shoulder, and, boom, Concussion City.

Any time you get large, athletic players flying around out there, and their job is to hit other large, athletic players, stuff, as they say, will happen.

“It’s tough for the Saints because they’ve lost their coach for the year, and that’s going to hurt them,” Schrock says. “But it’s just something in football that if you’re going hard, guys are going to get hurt anyway. It’s one of those things where I don’t think it really needed to be said, because guys are going to get hurt if you play hard.”

A shrug. “I don’t know.”

And there’s the dilemma, if you’re NFL commissioner Roger Goodell: No one really does.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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