Foolishness – The NHL Injury Policy

I have been putting together notes on the NHL injury policy for about a week or so, I decided to finally sit down and put up a post because Ken over at Islanders Outsider brought up some interesting points, but didn’t speak about the part of the policy that bothers me most. Before I begin, let me make one thing clear – I support the decisions by NHL clubs to hold back injury information during the playoffs, it has been that way for a long time. Read on for how I feel about the latest policy change regarding injury reporting in the NHL.

Only the NHL has a policy as ridiculous as their current injury policy, yes – only the NHL. Some claim the reasoning behind it is so it protects injured players from cheap shots that exploit them to further injury – which Ken covered in his own post. Others claim that because the NHL is as rough as it is, it just helps give players the added protections. The argument has already been made that the NFL has no such policy in place that masks or abbreviates the announcement of injuries to their players – so why does the NHL? The NFL features a style of play that at times, makes you wonder how they can still walk after a hit.

Think about some of the other sports and how ridiculous it would sound if a few of their star athletes were not dressing, playing, practicing or racing because of some unannounced or hidden injury. Let’s sit back and pretend for a minute – shall we? You know, use our imaginations…

2009 US Open

Tiger Woods
It’s the summer of 2009 and the pro golfers are all gathered at Bethpage State Park’s famous black course for the 2009 US Open. All the greats are there, Mickelson, Singh, Goosen, Garcia and Harrington – amongst others, but where is Tiger Woods?

A spokesman for Woods steps up to a podium to address the press and explains that Woods slipped on a wet patch of grass near the 9th hole during a practice round and will likely miss the first match due to “General Body Soreness” and is listed as “day-to-day”.

Daytona 500

Dale Earnhardt JR.
Moving along, we jump from Long Island to Daytona, Florida for the Daytona 500. We watch as many of the drivers circle the track during practice laps and notice that there are several drivers missing. Upon questioning, some of the reporters learn that Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip were all involved in a minor crash upon exiting pit road. Johnson and Waltrip will each miss one race with “lower body injuries” and are listed as “day-to-day”, while Earnhardt will miss 2-4 weeks with what is described as an “upper body injury”. Obviously, all three drivers will be out for the race – but it’s unclear when Dale Jr. will be returning, or for how many races he will be out.

2009 Yankees Spring Training

Derek Jeter
It’s spring training for the New York Yankees and Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are the hottest 1-2 punch in all of the pre-season matches. There is a short hop that goes right between Jeter and A-Rod and they each dive at the ball and crash to the ground in a pile. Both players are extremely shaken up and A-Rod has a gash on his forehead that needs obvious attention. Jeter however, is grimacing but seems like he is ok and remains in the game. It is later announced that A-Rod has “concussion-like-symptoms” and will sit out indefinately until he is cleared to play. The season opens and Jeter struggles through the first half and his numbers are extremely low for that point of the season. He misses a few games after the all-star break for “upper-body-soreness” and returns to finish out the season. It is revealed after the Yankees miss the playoffs that Jeter suffered torn ligaments in his right shoulder and this impeded his play throughout the entire year. He undergoes surgery to repair the damage and recovers completely in time for the start of the next season.

I can go on and on for some of the other sports, but I decided to pick three of the top four rated sports in the Unites States for a reason. In each example, how ridiculous do the explanations given sound? Obviously, in each case the clear cut truth would be given so fans do not go crazy wondering why their favorite driver or player is not performing up to expectations. In each case there are examples REAL explanations given by NHL clubs over the past two seasons, right up to where we are with this season.

The NHL injury policy is complete bologna and shouldn’t be as veiled as it is. The only thing they are doing is making clubs and players appear completely foolish. Sure, it’s a rough league with loads of physical contact – but other leagues and sports handle injury reports just fine. Fans NEED and EXPECT information on their teams players – it’s part of the game. Knowing injuries helps dampen the reality of a team not playing well or a player under performing. In a time where the NHL is lower than the NBA and Pro-Beach Volleyball……they need to do everything they can to keep fans happy. If the NHL or the NHLPA feels that the players cannot be protected when returning from injury, there are bigger issues that need to be addressed. As Ken says, isn’t there a code of conduct among players that keeps them from taking cheap shots? Here is a freebie – you intentionally go after a player returning from injury, it is a mandatory 5-game suspension with forfeited pay – no appeals.

Do general managers and coaches really need that much extra help in regards to lineups that they need to make up stories about their players? Does it help on the score sheet or help win games? Look at the scoring in the NHL since the lockout – it’s still down despite all the crackdowns on obstruction. This latest trick won’t help them squeeze an extra win or two out of a season or keep their opponents guessing.

Sorry to say, no matter how vague an injury report is – anyone following a team close enough can figure out what the injury is anyway. This entire debacle is a giant, foolish waste of time and an insult to fans everywhere. When the U.S. Government offers up more information about formerly classified documents, don’t you think the NHL can allow complete disclosure with injury reports? Maybe some day, but until that day comes – at least you know my take on this whole ordeal.

Michael Schuerlein


  1. I’m not sure if there’s any right way to handle the injury thing. I think the NFL has it right, but even their system has flaws. One time, the Jets didn’t list a single player on their injury report, and the NFL said something to the effect of, “We find that very hard to believe.” The next week, the Jets listed over half their team on the injury report, just to be dicks about it. Prior to having his knee injured in Week 1, Tom Brady was listed as probable for like three years straight. So even the NFL’s system isn’t perfect. But at least it’s not just totally absurd like the NHL’s is. Like you said, only the NHL would have an injury policy where there is no actual policy.

    There absolutely needs to be something to keep everybody accountable. We can’t have rampant speculation and erroneous reports every time someone gets hurt, like we’ve seen with the DiPietro situation. But like you said, there also needs to be legislation in place to keep players to go after players with known injuries. What’s the answer? That’s a tough one. Good thing we have wonderful people like Gary Bettman on the case 🙂

  2. What’s up Mike- I think fans can relate to your frustration. Difference with the NFL though is you have felons like holweg that would target an opponents injury.

    keep up the good work- see you on cod waw soon. jim.

  3. Hear, hear! Nice way of putting it. No matter where people fall on this issue, there *has* to be agreement that there’s a better way than this.

    @Jim: Surely the NFL has 10 times the number of felons! (I’m thinking of that NFL book, “Pros and Cons.” And sorry for calling you Shirley.)

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