Why don't teams disclose injuries?

Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari

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Q: What is the thought process behind not disclosing information about an injury? It seems the speculation about what that injury may or may not be is more distracting than the actual injury. I'm sure the coaches and players know exactly what is going on, but having to answer the same question daily from the media has to get old.

Tyler Perry, Grove City

MOLINARI: So does having to ask the same question every day, especially when there's absolutely no reason to believe it will elicit a response of substance.

The apparent motivation behind the policy is to prevent opponents from being able to target a player's injury for special abuse. (For example, hacking a guy on his sprained ankle, or making a point of driving his bruised shoulder into the boards with a hit.) That's fine, in theory, except that players on every team have friends on every other team, and those guys talk. While it's safe to assume that the details of some health issues do, in fact, remain secret, it would be na??ve for clubs to think that the teams they're facing don't have a least a little information about the vulnerable spots on their injured players, even if the ticket-buyers who keep the league in business don't.

It's worth noting that while some players are outspoken advocates of the non-disclosure policy and believe it does give them a measure of protection, there are at least as many who roll their eyes and force a smile while giving their non-answers. They clearly don't agree with the policy, but aren't going to risk angering their bosses by ignoring orders to keep all injury-related information quiet.

(Responsible reporters, by the way, do not disseminate information about any physical problems a player might have simply for the sake of doing so. If, say, a player has a bruised hand but it does not prevent him from playing and has not had a meaningful impact on his performance, writing and/or talking about it would serve no purpose other than to put a bull's-eye on the injured area. Media members have to make judgment calls about any number of situations, and this is one of them. It should be remembered, though, that the media exist not for their own benefit, but because they are conduits to the people who purchase tickets and merchandise and drive TV ratings.)

A surprising number of Q&A readers have inquired about the policy in recent days, which flies in the face of the belief some team and league officials have expressed that fans care only whether a player will be in the lineup or not, not about the nature of any injury that he might have. If enough fans express enough displeasure with the policy; perhaps it will be reconsidered. If the NHL concludes that ticket-buyers don't care and that only reporters object, it figures to remain in place for a long time.

The policy was adopted by the league's general managers a few months ago, and is spelled out this way on a website the league maintains for use by media members: "Clubs no longer are required to disclose the specific nature of player injuries. Clubs are, however, required to disclose that a player is expected to miss a game due to injury, or will not return to a game following an injury. Clubs are prohibited from providing untruthful information about the nature of a player injury or otherwise misrepresenting a player's condition."

The Penguins are one of those teams that divulge no meaningful information about injuries; others have not changed their approach, despite having authorization to do so. It was interesting to note that when New Jersey -- whose GM, Lou Lamoriello, has a long-standing reputation for conducting business in secret -- visited Mellon Arena last Saturday, the game notes provided by the team included information on the injuries that prevented five Devils from participating in the game, as well as the prognoses for when they are due back.

For what it's worth, Penguins officials say that, while they believe that injury information should be made public, doing so when other teams do not would put them at a competitive disadvantage.

Q: When Sidney Crosby was hooked from behind prior to scoring his third goal against the Devils, it would obviously have been a penalty-shot opportunity had he not been able to steer the puck toward the goal while falling. Seeing that the net was empty, had a penalty shot been called, would one of the New Jersey players on the ice have been required to stand by the goal and attempt to swat away the penalty-shot attempt, or would the goalie have been allowed to return?

Bill Ratay, Apopka, Fla.

MOLINARI: Teams can't be forced to use anyone except a goalie to defend a penalty shot (assuming they have a healthy one, of course), but Rule 57.4 gives referees the authority to award a goal in a situation like the one last Saturday.

It reads: "If, when the opposing goalkeeper has been removed from the ice, a player in control of the puck in the neutral or attacking zone is tripped or otherwise fouled with no opposition between him and the opposing goal, thus preventing a reasonable scoring opportunity, the Referee shall immediately stop play and award a goal to the attacking team."

Had Crosby not managed to put the puck into the net, despite being on his belly, that likely is how the situation would have been handled, although officials tend to give the defending team a lot of latitude to bend the rules when they're playing in front of an empty net.


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