Each sport has a very different form of physical punishmnet.
As far as hockey goes, it is a physical sport but I think people kind of have a crazy perception of it. I never played football but I assume like hockey, theres a way to learn how to take hits. Golden rule #1, keep your head on a pivot to avoid blind sided hits, which are the real killers.
Open ice hits are usually from guys acting like idiots and opening themselves up to it by trying a dumb deke.
Hits along the boards, those are like body blows which I don't think hurts that much. For example, if you have to choose a punch to the shoulder or ribs or a punch to the head, which one are you taking?
My point being, the most severe physical punishment is damage to the head. Its always ben a big problem in hockey because the game happens so fast. But if you can keep your head safe, its not that painful of a sport. Body checks along the boards are more of a stamina/endurance thing then a pain thing, the boards actually give some and absorb the force which is why its way less painful to get hit there then open ice.
I think I've seen the most gruesome injuries in football, guys getting their legs snapped and stuff.
Of course there is also the dirty side of hockey, sticks can definately be used as a weapon to do some damage. And then theres getting hit in the face....yeah that doesn't feel good and leaves a mark. But still, its one of those things that it hurts immediatley but you deal with it and go on and usually have a s**t load of adrenalyn to deal with it. Concussions and head trauma lasts a long time.
And some of the most physically punishing hockey is actually in the Minors and Juniors (16-20 year olds in Canada).
Edit: Just from playing in adult leagues locally in the past year, we've had one guy get his face smashed and had to get a few replacement teeeth. And another guy cracked 2 of his ribs, but he didn't even know it until he woke up the next day and couldn't breath. But each guy wasn't in that much pain, it was more of just a pain in the ass to deal with.
[ Edited by SunDevilNiner79 on Feb 21, 2012 at 9:27 AM ]