At the beginning of last season, Nashville Predators Captain Roman Josi commented that when he looked and saw that Mark Borowiecki was going to be on his team, he felt a sense of relief that he didn’t have to play against him any more. While Borowiecki’s name may not have been one familiar to Predators fans at the time, Roman Josi knew what everyone was about to find out—Mark Borowiecki is a tough customer.
I was in the middle of writing an article about Borowiecki’s impact and influence on the team this season as I sat on media row at Bridgestone Arena. The Predators were up 2-1 over the Colorado Avalanche with a little more than eight minutes left in the second period when Andre Burakovsky fired a slap shot toward the net. The puck never made it, as it collided with Borowiecki’s hip. Borowiecki immediately hit the ice, clearly in pain and totally vulnerable. The officials, however, allowed play to carry on, and the puck wound up back with Burakovsky, who advanced to the right side of Borowiecki (who was still face-down on the ice) before firing again. This time, however, the puck found its mark and hit the back of the net. As the Avalanche celebrated their goal, the trainers were finally able to enter the ice to attend to Borowiecki, who was eventually helped to the bench by Ryan Johansen and Luke Kunin. Boroweicki then headed down the tunnel with the help of trainers.
While it is true that it was up to the on-ice officials to make the decision as to whether or not to stop play, they chose not to do so. Considering Colorado maintained possession in their offensive zone, it makes sense. However, the play left Borowiecki completely unprotected and helpless to protect himself from the play happening around him. And I suppose the Avalanche were well within their rights to celebrate the goal as trainers checked on the injured Borowiecki.
Borowiecki did not return to the bench to start the third period and would not come back for the remainder of the night. The Predators wound up winning 5 to 4 in overtime. During postgame media availability, Predators Head Coach John Hynes gave an update on Borowiecki. He explained that Borowiecki was still being evaluated and he wouldn’t have an update until tomorrow. He also said that the referee came over and explained that play was allowed to continue because Borowiecki was hit in the body. Had he been hit in the head, they would have stopped it immediately. Hynes also added that he thought Borowiecki would be okay, although that seemed more like a personal opinion than a medical opinion.
The issue here isn’t really what happened on the ice, but what didn’t happen. Borowiecki was clearly injured. And clearly not in an embellishment sort of way. Some might say if play had continued (without a goal) a little bit longer that the officials would have stopped play, but how long is too long when a player is injured—down on the ice and not able to move—in the slot as the opponent is on the attack? A shot to the head or the body doesn’t make a difference when it comes to being unable to protect yourself.
The discretion of the officials is one thing, and I appreciate the explanation from the referee, but the safety of the players is another thing entirely. In these cases, I think it would be best to err on the side of safety and stop play.