Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Thanks Ziggy

On Sunday January 15th I heard a piece of trivia on the radio. That day in 1961 Mickey Mantle signed a contract with the New York Yankees for the 1961 season. He would receive $75,000 for his services. At the time, that made him the highest paid player in the American League. Mickey would later succumb to a series of injuries that plagued him from childhood and play at well below his skill levels for several years before he retired.

Other athletes have sacrificed their bodies for the love of their game. Some have become crippled in body, others have suffered brain damage from concussion after concussion. Some have become paralyzed and some have even died. (Willis Reed, Mohammed Ali, Joe Namath, and Wayne Chrebet are just a few of the walking wounded that come to mind.)

It’s sad to see an aging (or not so aging) athlete struggle to play the game he loves. It’s also sad to see one forced to hang ‘em up early.

We can wonder about the multi-million dollar salaries that some of the stars in any sport command, but how many of us would be willing to play the game at the that level and absorb the physical abuse the body must accept?

I’m not a big hockey fan. I have trouble standing on ice let alone skating, handling a puck or doing all the other things a hockey player must do on the ice to succeed. I admired Wayne Gretzky. His ballet-like moves and ability to see everyone on the ice and anticipate their moves was impressive. Gretzky was lucky enough to retire with relatively healthy body, never having suffered a major injury.
The Penguins’ Ziggy Palffy hasn’t been as lucky. After 12 NHL seasons with the Islanders, Kings and Penguins, despite being second on the Penguins in scoring this season, and despite having signed a 3-year $13.5 million dollar free agent contract last August, Palffy is retiring due to a shoulder injury. He’s been hurt and operated upon twice before but the doctors say they can do nothing now.
"I have agreed on all matters related to my retirement with the Pittsburgh management," Palffy told the Sport daily, a Slovak newspaper. "There is no point in suffering any longer."

The 33-year-old Palffy was injured while playing for the Los Angeles Kings at Anaheim in January 2004. He had reconstructive surgery on his right shoulder twice, but the problems persisted.

"I have talked to my doctor and he did not recommend a third operation,"

33-year-olds are NOT supposed to be washed up. And he wasn't, really, not with 11 goals, 31 assists in 42 games.

Palffy had 329 goals and 384 assists in 684 games in 12 NHL seasons with the New York Islanders, the Kings and Penguins. He scored 40 or more goals in three straight seasons with the Islanders.

Penguins RW Ziggy Palffy Retiring

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