Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Pushing Denna

Miss TigerBlog had a school event last night. National Honor Society inductions, to be exact.

TB would tell his daughter afterwards that he was proud of her but that it was a really dull ceremony.

First of all, he had to sit way, way up top in the auditorium, which is divided into three tiers. He was in the upper one, completely out of sight of anything other than the stage, whereas the inductees were in the first few rows of the orchestra section.

Also, the microphone at the podium barely worked, so it was next to impossible to hear the speakers.

So from where TB was sitting, he couldn't see or hear the ceremony. What did he do?

He watched the Navy-Holy Cross Patriot League men's lacrosse quarterfinal game on his phone. Or at least the second half. If you're wondering, Holy Cross won 11-7.

TB is reasonably sure that his own parents did not do the same when he was inducted into the NHS all those years ago. Maybe MTB can pull off the double that TB did not: National Honor Society in high school, Phi Beta Kappa in college.

TigerBlog always loves to watch Navy teams play. It takes someone very special to go to a service academy to compete and be a student, and those athletes - and everyone there, actually - sacrifice a lot of what most people expect of their college experiences.

The game last night was played on Navy-Marine Corps Stadium. If you've ever been there, or seen a game there on TV or video, you know that the list of battles that the Navy and Marines have fought throughout their history are denoted on the walls around the field.

TB has been to games there. It's an incredibly poignant setting, knowing how many people who have played there sacrificed much more than their college experience. You can't help but be touched by it.

Speaking of being touched by athletes, TB has been meaning to mention the story from the Boston Marathon last week that hits home for Princeton Athletics.

This story is about the incredible effort of former NHL player Bobby Carpenter, who for 26.2 miles and more than four hours pushed Princeton alum Denna Laing in her wheelchair throughout the entire course. It looked impossibly hard to do, and yet there he was, mile after mile, running and pushing Denna.

This was an amazingly inspirational moment, courtesy of two extraordinary people.

Bobby Carpenter was the first American-born hockey player ever to be a first-round NHL draft pick. TigerBlog remembers that.

He also had a near-career-ending knee injury that was described in an NBC Sports piece as "dropping fine china on a cement floor and then trying to put it back together." Carpenter came back from that to play nearly another decade, winning a Stanley Cup with the Devils in 1994-95. He'd play 18 seasons in the NHL.

Denna Laing, as you remember, played hockey at Princeton and then in the professional women's outdoor league, where she suffered a spinal cord injury in the Women's Winter Classic 16 months ago.

Since then, she has shared with the world the remarkable story of her drive to walk again, and the way her injury has not dampened her spirits, not to mention her smile. Any time TB has seen her profiled since, he has done nothing but marvel at her zeal. Her drive makes him shake his head in wonderment.

Her rehab regimen has allowed her to regain use of her shoulders, arms and hands,which came in handy during the marathon, as she was waving and waving and waving to the crowds who cheered them on.

The connection was Laing's father, who had played hockey with Carpenter when they were younger. Laing and Carpenter didn't train together, and in fact the Marathon last week was only the third time he ran and pushed her. Before that, he trained by pushing a chair with sandbags on it, simulating Denna's weight.

Carpenter ran the Marathon a year ago, in a time of 3:46. This time, pushing Denna for the 26.2 miles, their time was 4:30. Can you imagine doing that for 4:30?

Hey, can you imagine the sight of the two of them as they reached the finish? Incredible.

The day after Denna's injury, Princeton's Mike Condon played one of the biggest games of his career in the Winter Classic, beating the Boston Bruins as the goalie for the Montreal Canadiens. During the 2015-16 season, Condon was the primary starter for Montreal, as regular starter Carey Price missed basically the entire season, and Condon played very well, especially considering he was basically being thrown to the wolves.

This year, Condon has been on the Ottawa Senators, except for one game early in the season for the Penguins. Condon has started much of the season as Ottawa's usual starter, Craig Anderson, had been out caring for his wife during her battle with cancer.

Condon had a really good year for the Senators, and he has done a lot to establish himself as a legitimate NHL goalie. For now, though, he is Anderson's backup for the playoffs.

Ottawa defeated Boston in the first round in six games, all of which were played by Anderson. Maybe Condon will get in at some point.

Next up for Ottawa is the Rangers, who knocked off Montreal, also in six games. TB will be rooting for Ottawa, just as he did in the first round. He's never been a fan of the Bruins or the Rangers, and it would be great to see Condon get a Stanley Cup ring so early in his career.

Condon is very easy to root for, an underdog who is trying to make his way, and who is a Princeton alum to boot.

And then there's Denna Laing. And Bobby Carpenter.

What can TB say about them, other than just wow.

No comments: