Brad Richards of the Dallas Stars skates off the ice after sustaining an "upper body injury" . (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
I find the NHL’s stand on injury disclosure extremely condescending and I’m not sure why.
The NHL used to have a regulation in place that encouraged teams to be forthright with injury details. Most teams became more and more vague and that prompted the league’s GM committee to make injury disclosure optional prior to this season. In other words, no transparency.
I completely understand why it’s done – so players returning from injuries don’t have targets on them – and it makes total sense to me even if it magnifies the great lack of respect among players. “Hey boys, go after Williams’ knee. It’s in a brace.”
I’m virtually alone in my disdain for this policy. Many media associates and most fans have told me they have absolutely no problem with injury (non) disclosure. Yet still, in a world of instant information and complete transparency on injuries from other leagues such as the NFL and NBA, I struggle to accept it.
I think it’s very insulting when teams describe injuries using the “upper body” and “lower body” terminology. I’d rather they use “undisclosed” injury because it’s a more direct way of delivering the message: “We know what the injury is, but we don’t want to say for various reasons.”
This upper/lower body crap comes across too dictatorial. “We’ll give you just enough information to get by so you don’t go on a manhunt for more details and blow the whole thing.”
On Monday, my esteemed colleague Eric Duhatschek had a story in the Globe and Mail about the Calgary Flames having to battle through recent injuries to defensemen Robyn Regehr, Cory Sarich and Adrian Aucoin (with Mark Giordano already hurt.) The story didn’t have any details on the injuries, whether they’d be short term, long term or this upper/lower nonsense.
Before I even finished reading the story over my morning cereal, I imagined my old editor barking complaints in my ear: “Unanswered questions. Too many unanswered questions in that story. Send it back. Work on it some more. Answer those unanswered questions or get rid of them.”
So maybe it’s just the journalist in me that makes me sensitive to this nondisclosure. But I couldn’t help but think of the moderate hockey fan or strong Flames supporters who read Eric’s story and beefed aloud how a Hall of Fame-recognized journalist like Duhatschek could write a story with a gaping hole. The reader doesn’t know about the NHL’s injury disclosure issue.
So I contacted ‘Hat’ and he told me he has no objection with the league’s stand on injury disclosure as long as there’s no fallout after the fact.
“My job as a journalist is to critically evaluate performance on the best available information,” Hat said. “So if a player, returning from an injury, makes a critical giveaway and we find out after the fact he’s playing with a bad hand, well, too bad. I assume everyone is fully ready to play when they’re in the lineup; and if I knew more about the nature of an injury, it might change or soften my analysis if said player made an error that could be traced to playing hurt.”
And that’s often a problem. A player playing at less than 100 percent is targeted for criticism by the media and fans for a substandard performance. It’s unfortunate, but either way he’s a target.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.
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