The Hurting Game

As expected, Steve Eminger and Milan Jurcina will be the healthy blueline scratches tonight against the Rangers. Injured forwards Chris Clark, Boyd Gordon and Michael Nylander all skated today.

From time to time I’m asked why NHL teams guard injury information so closely. People wonder about undisclosed injuries, uppper body/lower body injuries, and why NHL teams don’t divulge more details when a player is hurt.

Most of my recreational reading is related to hockey, and I’m currently reading Punch Imlach’s autobiography, “Hockey is a Battle,” published in 1969 with Scott Young (Neil’s dad) as the ghost-writer. In the process of reading that book, I was reminded that the stance of current NHL general managers on injuries is nothing new.

Imlach spent a decade as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ head coach and general manager. His teams won four Stanley Cups during that time, including three in a row. As everyone knows, the Leafs haven’t won one since.

Here’s a paragraph from the book:

“Here’s the thing about injuries – I want to hear from the players but I don’t want to let anybody in the press know. So if a guy is playing with an injury it’s a good reason to keep the dressing room door locked a while at the end of a game. The reason I don’t want the press to know about it is that if an injured player can possibly play I don’t want other teams knowing he’s hurt. I only go on what I would do myself. If I knew a guy playing against me had a bad leg, well, everything’s fair in love and war. If he’s got it, what the hell, exploit it. It’s just like on the battlefield. There is a hole in the line. You know it’s weak there. What are you going to do, go and attack someplace else? You try right where the weakness is. So I don’t want to let another team know I have any weakness. I let the guy play. If the other team doesn’t know he’s hurt, he may get through the game without any trouble. If they know he’s hurt, he’s going to take more abuse because they’ve been tipped off that he’s hurt, and exactly where.”

Makes sense.

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4 Comments on “The Hurting Game”

  1. Shaggy Says:

    Nothing new under the sun, as they say – thus the secretive nature of hiding Nyl’s injury.

  2. Eli Says:

    You know, I’d been wondering about that for quite some time! Thanks for not assuming we’re all experts like sports writers tend to.

  3. Frank M Says:

    Smart management teams don’t divulge players injuries for that reason it puts a target on the back. Better to keep the press and fans in the dark about a player that’s not 100% than to give the opponent the info needed to help them win the game. Makes total sense to me!

  4. Will Says:

    This is all understandable. However, what if a member of the press happens to find out what the players’ injury is? Is it not this persons’ job to divulge and write about what he/she has learned? Or, should this media member keep quiet so to not upset the team’s players and management?

    On a local sports channel, I saw and heard one local media person say he knew what Nylander’s injury was. This person has not divulged what he has come to learn, however.

    Is this person doing his/her job?
    Is this ethical?
    I am not sure.


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