Sami Salo is set to officially announce his retirement soon, thus allowing people to make one last Salo injury joke before he rides off into the sunset. “Will he hurt himself making the announcement? Will his vocal cords burst into a thousand little pieces?” we’ll all wonder.
But behind those jokes is an enormous amount of respect for the pale faced d-man with a cannon for a shot. While Salo was never the top guy in Vancouver, he was the Riker to our Picard, steady, reliable, and usually hurting from some sort of weird injury. It’s hard to believe, but he put in nine years with Vancouver, making him one of the longest serving defenceman in Canucks history (9th all time in games played for a defenceman in Vancouver).
So let’s take a look back at one of the more underrated d-men in Canucks franchise history, and wave farewell to ol’ Slammin’ Sami Salo.
Balls of Steel
Look, if at one point during your career a crowd proudly chants “Balls of Steel!” for you, you had to have done something right.
Salo, who had been hit in the little Salos a game earlier, returned to play the next game, despite (reported but never confirmed) a ruptured testicle. Salo, who had at this point faced every injury known to mankind, shrugged it off and played the next game. “The general was fine at first, but the battalion was down.” Sami was reported as having described his injury.
Did he skate gingerly? You bet he did. But there he was, playing his heart out, and the crowd serenaded him with a chant of “Balls of steel!” for his efforts.
People use the word “literally” incorrectly all the time, but in this case, Sami Salo was literally snake bitten. I mean he was actually bitten by a venomous snake. For a man who has suffered so many injuries (ruptured achilles playing floorball, shattered sinuses from a shot to the face, I assume a hurt shoulder while running from a T-Rex), the snake bite was probably the icing on the cake, just because of how weird it was.
Forgive the standard definition of the video (a big problem when reflecting on career highlights of non-HD era players), but it still shows what is one of the oddest Canucks goal celebrations of all time.
Ovechkin has his jump into the glass. Patrick Kane has his punch through the heart. Briere had his annoying ice scoop. None of those, however, compare to…the tickler.
I don’t know why Salo felt the need to tickle what looks to be an imaginary pair of balls after he scored his overtime goal, but hey, weird things happen when you win a game.
This was the zenith of the “make them pay on the scoreboard” mentality the 2011 team tried to utilize to beat their opponents.
To set the scene, it was Game 4 of the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks in 2011. The Sharks, following the “Ben Eager losing his mind” gameplan were in penalty trouble and had to kill off a 5-on-3.
Enter Sami Salo.
Salo, whose shot is still used as a scare tactic in Finland to this day (“If you don’t go to bed right now, Sami Salo will show up and shoot the puck at you!”), armed his cannon and absolutely blitzkrieged the Sharks’ net, scoring two quick power play goals, which basically locked up the victory for the Canucks.
The Cannon Both Giveth and Taketh
That’s Sami Salo shooting the puck so hard he pulled a muscle in his butt. When this happened, everyone in Vancouver just wisely nodded their head, as at this point no injury surprised us. We were mostly surprised it didn’t happen sooner.
David vs Goliath
Now, there is no video I can find of this, but anyone who remembers Salo’s career will remember the hit he laid out on Peter Worrell.
Worrell, for the record, was a mammoth 6″7′, 230 pound enforcer, playing for the Colorado Avalanche at the time. This is a man who once had 354 penalty minutes in a single season. John Scott, for a comparison, has a career high 125 penalty minutes in a season (fewer games played, but the point is, Worrell was an enforcer, plain and simple).
Despite the fact Salo may in fact actually be made of glass, during the game Salo threw a massive body check on Worrell, dropping him to the ice. It was one of the biggest hits of the season, and it was delivered by a man who can probably get injured reading in dim light conditions (severed optical nerve?).
Sami Salo was the master of the “you know” bomb during interviews. He just always wanted to make sure you knew, you know?
When you think of Salo, you think of class. This is a man who never complained about his injuries, and fought back from each one of them. This is a man who took less money at the end of his career to stay in Vancouver, to give them team cap maneuverability. This was a man who played smart, underrated hockey and made those around him better.
Sami Salo was a great Canuck, whose career should be remembered fondly. Good luck in your future endeavors Sami, Vancouver will never forget you!