If you thought an NFL injury report was difficult to draw information from, wait until you look at the NHL’s. Back in 2008, the late Jim Kelley wrote this piece for SI about a rule put in place in June of that year that allows NHL teams to basically reveal nothing in their injury reports. Upper body. Lower body. Day-to-day. That’s about all you’re getting from a coach or general manager if you ask about a player’s current status. If Clint Malarchuk’s horrific skate slash incident happened today and you looked at an injury report, you’d likely see “Malarchuk: Upper body (out),” on a report. Kelley thought it hurt the game back in 2008. I don’t think anything has changed in the last 36 months.
Before you go harping on this being a homer thing, yes, Marian Hossa’s recent injury was the catalyst for me writing this. However, I hardly think I’m alone in this matter. Every NHL team does it and every NHL fan seems to be frustrated to similar degrees. Don’t paying customers have the right to know who they should expect to see on the ice that night? At the very least, they should have access to what their player’s injury is so as to make an educated guess as to when to expect his return.
Instead, we get the same old rhetoric. Upper body. Lower body. Day-to-day.
Teams can’t falsify or blatantly lie about player injuries. But it’s not like they have to say anything that provides a morsel of clarity. In 2008, Rick DiPietro was listed on Islanders injury reports at the beginning of the season with a lower body injury. He had a surgically repaired knee. He played five games that entire season and the team kept stringing fans along by saying it was a short term injury. He was just day-to-day. DiPietro ended up having knee surgery and missed the vast majority of that season with a torn meniscus.
Islander fans never knew until after the surgery was completed. Where’s the fairness for fans that bought 41 tickets to the Nassau Coliseum expecting to see their franchise goaltender?
The NFL’s injury policy allows for ambiguity as well. Just look at Bill Belichick’s injury report. Half his roster is questionable to play every single week. There was a time when Tom Brady was on there for two straight seasons but never missed a game. Still, at least fans knew that it was his shoulder that was ailing him. That’s a pretty vital piece of anatomy to a guy slinging the ball around. If he was out there playing week to week, then Patriots fans at least knew it wasn’t serious. Which brings us back to the NHL and how this is hurting not only the fans, but the players.
When Marian Hossa doesn’t skate the Friday after a game, we get told that he just is out for a maintenance day. Logical. When he’s a gametime decision for the following day on Saturday, we think he’ll probably play since he logged 21 minutes on Thursday night and we didn’t see any ill effects. When he’s scratched, we get frustrated. When we get frustrated, we speculate. When we speculate, we are often inaccurate. Not only the fans, but the media as well. There are people on the beat that get bombarded with questions. Especially in the wake of social media and the access that the masses have to some of these beat writers. Hell, I asked Tracey Myers, Chris Kuc, Jesse Rogers and Tim Sassone what was going on with Hossa. They guessed. Then I was left to speculate. Now I’ve got a basketball beat writer telling me he’ll travel with the team but his availability is “unknown.”
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Brittle. Oft-injured. Slow-healer. Lack of toughness.
The above are the types of things that get thrown out when we have no idea what exactly is ailing a player. Everyone is at fault here, not just the team and their injury report. It’s human nature to be curious about something you’re passionate about. Of course fans and media members are going to speculate. By providing ambiguous injury reports, you’re fostering that speculation. While trying to protect your players from targeting, you’re hurting them in other ways.
I’m not going to ask for a revamping of the whole system. I don’t need Marian Hossa’s MRI results or medical charts posted in a Twitpic by Adam Rogowin. Provide with more clarity as to what he hurt and a timetable (or at least a guess at one) for his return.
Is that so much to ask?