It was used as yet another example of why hockey players are supposedly the toughest human beings on the face of the Earth.

Brent Gilchrist, a forward for the Red Wings with suspect talent but not suspect determination, made his teammates sick, literally, in the 1998 post-season.

Not that we knew anything about it at the time.

Playoff hockey is filled with mind games and secret intelligence that would make the CIA proud.

Never is this more evident than when it comes to player injuries.

Coaches smirk, players wink. General managers divert attention.

It’s a very well-orchestrated operation.

The NHL doesn’t require teams to divulge details of player injuries, an option that is taken advantage of, whole-heartedly.

Guys who are out of the lineup have “upper body injuries.”

Smirk. Wink.

Guys who are playing but who clearly don’t look like themselves are merely struggling. There’s nothing the matter with them.

Smirk. Wink.

It’s not until that team’s playoff run is over with, that we’re told the truth.

Gilchrist, we were told once the intelligence officers for the Red Wings deemed it OK, had played the entire post-season with a torn groin.

Try getting out of bed with one of those without sinking back onto the mattress, sobbing in pain.

Yet Gilchrist, not wanting to miss out on what he believed to be an excellent chance to win his first Stanley Cup, not only got out of bed, he dragged his butt to the hockey rink and proceeded to make even the most hardened of his teammates look away in disgust.

Gilchrist, it was disclosed, would have the training staff inject his groin with syringes the size of knitting needles, so that he could be administered the proper amount of cortisone, and in the precise spot, so the pain could be dulled enough for him to play.

Sometimes the cortisone would wear off, and Gilchrist would undergo the procedure during games—whether between periods or between shifts.

Other Red Wings players reported becoming almost sick to their stomachs, having accidentally catching a glimpse of what Brent Gilchrist was enduring, just so he could play some hockey.

The Red Wings played 22 playoff games that spring, which culminated in their second straight Stanley Cup. Gilchrist, with his mangled groin with the track marks, participated in 15 of them.

The extent of his injury was so severe that Gilchrist only managed to play in five games for the Red Wings the following season. It was acknowledged that his decision not to have surgery when he should have—choosing instead to play in the playoffs—cost him basically the whole next season due to belated surgery and recovery.

But he had himself his Stanley Cup—the only one of his career.

That’s a hockey player for you, eh?

Baseball players are wimps!

They sit down if they have a hangnail!

Can’t even play when it’s raining!

I have two words for you and your myths.

Brandon, and Inge.

Inge, the Tigers’ marvelous third baseman, is, under full disclosure, authoring one of the gutsiest feats by any athlete we’ve seen in Detroit—Gilchrist included.

Inge is playing on one leg for the Tigers right now—and he’s still one of the best third basemen in the game, defensively.

Correction: Inge is playing on, at best, two-thirds of one leg.

Rod Allen, the astute analyst for Fox Sports Detroit, put it right.

“There’s a difference between playing in pain, and playing injured,” Allen said Friday night as the Tigers were embroiled in yet another tight ballgame, in Oakland.

“And Brandon Inge is injured.”

No kidding.

This isn’t the NHL, so we’re all able to marvel at what Inge is putting himself through, just so he can do whatever he can to help shove the Tigers across the finish line before the White Sox or the Twins.

His knees are killing him—the left one being the worst of the two.

“Excruciating” has been used to describe the pain.

“Unbelievable” is what I’d use to describe his being on the field, and not in the hospital, his leg propped up and recovering from the surgeon’s knife.

Inge has what doctors say is about a 75 percent tear in the middle portion of the patella tendon in his left knee.

Yeah. That’s right.

The right knee hurts him, too.

But, as Allen said, the right knee is just pain. The left knee is injured.

Inge should be on the disabled list, for the rest of the season, and should have had surgery weeks ago. Someone else should be playing third base.

“It affects everything you do,” he said recently. “Anything that gets you in any sort of an athletic position, that’s what hurts. Anything.

“It’s not fun playing like this.”

Even stepping into the batter’s box—stepping into it—causes Inge great discomfort.

But here’s where it gets legendary, as if that wasn’t enough.

“How could I go on the disabled list and not play, when we’re in first place, when there are people all over out of work and struggling to get by? What kind of message would that send?”

Gulp.

Did a professional athlete, being paid millions of dollars, just say that?

The words are Inge’s, said a few weeks ago.

I wrote earlier in the season, before Inge’s travails were made known, that if they ever get around to erecting some more bronze statues at Comerica Park, they might want to include Brandon Inge, the Tiger with the most seniority of the current bunch, among the casts.

I got the expected reaction—scoffs and chortles and head shaking. A few, and only a few, agreed with me.

Then I found out about Inge’s knees and what he’s putting himself through, and the “v” word starting floating around my head.

Vindication.

Did you hear the latest?

Now they’re sticking needles into Inge’s knee and injecting him with a glucose solution, which is supposed to function as an irritant, alerting the body to fix the problem.

I just saw your hangnail and raised it by a broken knee and a half.

The Tigers offered Inge some time on the disabled list—the minimum 15 day requirement. This was several weeks ago.

But he said no, because no medical expert around the team could assure him that 15 days off would do any real good.

“I don’t want a day off the rest of the year,” Inge told the Detroit News’ Tom Gage last week. “Be sure to tell the skipper (manager Jim Leyland) that, too.”

The skipper isn’t obeying. He’s sitting Inge down occasionally, but not for entire games. Leyland can’t resist the urge to insert Inge into the game in the later innings, because his glove is so valuable.

Leyland failed to do that last Sunday against Kansas City, and faux third baseman Ryan Raburn let a hard groundball gobble him up in the tenth inning. The miscue led to the Royals scoring the game-winning run.

“Inge would have made that play,” was the first thing that came to mind when I saw Raburn turn butcher.

Brandon Inge, on two-thirds of one leg, would have made that play. Likely.

Don’t any of you dare forget what this guy is going through to play baseball this season.

I know I won’t.

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