NHL defenseman Keith Yandle recently made history by playing in 965 consecutive regular season games, becoming the all-time “Ironman” and breaking the league's record of consecutive regular season games played. It's quite an accomplishment and, as a sport fans, he should be congratulated. That's pretty cool.
From a labour studies perspective, and as a scholar of work and workers, this record made me cringe. How does someone play 965 consecutive games? You play through pain. Yandle has recently cited a conversation with Bobby Orr, where he was told “if you can skate, you can play.” Of the conversation, he remarked, “When it’s a legend like that saying it to you, you have to step up and play.’’
Yandle once suffered a broken jaw and had to wear a full cage to protect his face. Another time, he lost nine teeth thanks to a puck to the face, got some Novocaine and Yandle still hurt the next day. Yet he played the next game.
I think Yandle's analysis of the situation – and hey, it's his life and body – reflects the commonly held 'tough guy' approach. From a sport psychology perspective, this is pretty common: “It's kind of the way hockey players are built. You kind of try to play through as much pain as you can. There's been some times I've not felt great. It was tough sledding. But it's one of those things where you just try to battle through it and help out your team.”
In any other workplace, this wouldn't be tolerated. We'd be shocked. Outraged. The Ministry of Labour would be called.
This week's question is, how do we reconcile a desire for a healthy and safe workplace with the psychological approach of being tough, playing through the pain, and being there “for the boys.” I'm not sure of the answer, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on how we (should) reconcile staying safe and playing hard. Can you do both at the same time, or does one (likely playing through pain) end up taking precedent? If you have experience as a player of some sort, I'd love to hear that. As a sports fan, how do you feel about this?