Why the secrecy on Gonchar?
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Q: I don't understand why the team is so secretive about the Sergei Gonchar injury. I understand withholding information if it can adversely affect the team. For example, if it is unclear what the injury is, by withholding the information, you prevent opposing players from targeting it. However, in the case of Gonchar, I don't see the detriment in revealing its details. First, it's quite clear it is knee-related. Second, revealing the length of time he is out (or at least an estimate) will not give the Capitals any significant advantage. The bottom line is that the game should be about the fans, as they provide the cash to keep it running, and by refusing to disclose information that won't have a negative impact on the team, it seems that the organization is doing a disservice to its fans.
John, New York City
MOLINARI: You make points that reporters have been trying to get across to team and league officials for years. Most of those executives contend that only media members are interested in injury information; it's encouraging when a fan steps forward and, in a concise and coherent fashion, explains why teams have an obligation to circulate meaningful information about injured players, at least when it would not put that player's well-being at any additional jeopardy.
However, NHL regulations adopted for this season require teams to provide very little information about injuries, and there's no evidence of a major move within the league to change that. Aside from announcing what a player's status for the rest of the game in which he was injured -- to wit, that he's "likely," "questionable" or "doubtful" to return -- teams don't have to say much of anything, although there is a stipulation that they not circulate false information. While officials of some teams, including the Penguins, say that would not have a problem with a more liberal policy, they believe that implementing one unilaterally could put them at a competitive disadvantage.
Teams' reluctance to divulge injury information, especially during the playoffs, led to utterly meaningless terms like "upper-body" and "lower-body" injuries being introduced to the hockey lexicon. Some teams are moving away from those worthless descriptions and simply saying that players have left a game because of an injury, and nothing more. (Never mind if it's because, in plain sight of 20,000 witnesses and a continent-wide TV audience, he blocked a shot with his forehead and immediately began to bleed heavily from the cut it inflicted.) The intriguing thing here is that all the effort teams put into keeping injury information out of general circulation purportedly is intended to preven t the other team from learning anything that might be of value to it in future games. The trouble with that is that, in almost any matchup, there are players on the opposing clubs who grew up in the same town, or played major-junior together, or were teammates in college or the minors, and those guys often talk. Now, not every guy is going to share injury information with an opposing player, even if they're close friends, but enough do that teams are deluding themselves if they believe that they can keep the details about every player who is hurt secret.
Indeed, the Gonchar situation provides a good example of how opponents get news on injured players even when teams try to deny it to the public. When Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau met with reporters at his team's game-day skate last Saturday, he mentioned that Gonchar had accompanied the Penguins to Washington the previous night, something that no media member except the broadcasters who travel with the Penguins could have known at that point.
Where Boudreau got his information isn't known -- it could have come from someone who worked on the Penguins' flight to Washington, a guy who unloaded or transported their equipment or a hotel worker, among other possibilities -- but the point is that he knew something the Penguins had not made public.
Q: What's the big problem with the back-to-back scheduling (Capitals owner) Ted Leonsis is blaming on bookings at Mellon Arena?
Douglas McKinney, Bethel Park
MOLINARI: Scheduling problems caused by arena availability issues are hardly are something new in the NHL. Last spring, for example, Washington played Game 7 of its opening-round series against Philadelphia the night after Game 6.
It's unfortunate that every NHL building can't sit empty on the off-chance that it will be needed for a game on a particular night, but that's no way to run a business. (There also is the minor matter that some arenas, like the one in Boston, have NBA clubs that need a place to stage games, too.) Perhaps Leonsis was upset because someone told him the staff at Mellon Arena had devised a computer program to prevent people living in and around Washington, D.C. from purchasing tickets to the Yanni concert.
First Published May 12, 2009 12:00 am