Saturday Sports: The Injury That Sidelined One Of WNBA's Best Players
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And now it's time for sports.
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SIMON: And another one bites, well, the ice in the NHAL (ph) - NHL playoffs. And a WNBA star - in fact, the WNBA star - is out for surgery. NPR's Tom Goldman is here. Tom, thanks so much for being with us.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: It's my pleasure, Scott.
SIMON: Five to one last night, Calgary Flames lost to the Colorado - I should reverse that. The Colorado (imitating French accent) Avalanche - avalanche.
SIMON: I'm still thinking Paris, France. Avalanche defeated the Calgary Flames, and it seemed - who had such a great year. It seems like having a spectacular regular season's become a curse in the playoffs.
GOLDMAN: Yes. We should say that the (imitating French accent) Avalanche beat the Flames.
SIMON: Well, that's what they would call them in Quebec. But go ahead, yeah.
GOLDMAN: They beat the (imitating French accent) Flames...
GOLDMAN: ...Four games to one to win their opening-round series. Now, as you mentioned, yes, Calgary was the top seed in the Western Conference. And earlier this week, Tampa Bay, the top seed in the East, was swept out of the playoffs four games to none by Columbus. So this is the first time that both conference top seeds lost first-round playoff series.
And this, you know, gives life to the old playoff adage that the postseason is a new season. Everyone has a chance. Of course, some teams have more of a chance than others. But in this case, those shiny No. 1 seedings didn't matter. And as a result, there's now a lot more hope and belief among the teams still playing.
SIMON: I think we have to note something this week. Now, football can and - deserves a lot of attention for the toll it takes on the brains and bodies of players. But this week, we were reminded that hockey, a game invented by gentle Canadians, is the only team sport where players can outright brawl right in front of the referees, and the referees, you know, do nothing until the last minute and, many times, without penalty.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. And sometimes, people get hurt. I believe the fight you're talking about is between - was between Alex Ovechkin, the star of last year's Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, and 19-year-old Andrei Svechnikov of the Carolina Hurricanes. Ovechkin knocked him out and put Svechnikov in the concussion protocol. Ovechkin was given a five-minute game penalty. Scott, you know the old joke, I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out, right?
SIMON: Yes. Yes. Yes.
GOLDMAN: It is funny, but not sure it applies exactly today because fighting is on the decline in the NHL.
GOLDMAN: It's certainly a long way from the brawling 1980s, when fights happen all the time. And Ovechkin, also, is not known as a fighter. Still, it was disturbing, you know, to see...
GOLDMAN: ...Svechnikov lying on the ice, momentarily unconscious, his arms and hands clenched. So Game 5 is tonight in Washington. The referees will probably be on high alert.
SIMON: Breanna Stewart - the WNBA season's about to begin. But Breanna Stewart, one of the league's marquee player, has been sidelined with an injury. We ought to learn something about the WNBA from that, shouldn't we?
GOLDMAN: Yeah. Well, she tore an Achilles tendon in a European championship game. She was playing for a Russian team. And it's expected she'll miss the entire WNBA season. That's a big blow...
GOLDMAN: ...For the defending champion Seattle Storm. Stewie, as she's called, was a big reason they won the title last year. She was named Finals MVP. She was also the league MVP last season.
SIMON: Why do the best women players have to go overseas?
GOLDMAN: Because they don't make a lot of money in the WNBA. I mean, her base salary last season was about $56,000. And, Scott, let's state up front, you know, Breanna Stewart could've gotten hurt anywhere at any time. But the reality is by having to supplement their WNBA incomes playing overseas, which most WNBA players do...
GOLDMAN: ...They often don't give their bodies enough time to rest and to heal. This - you know, making more money is going to be a part of the conversation that players have with ownership when they start bargaining on a new collective bargaining agreement.
SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
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