Saturday, January 10, 2009

Top secret

You know what's really irritating for an obsessive hockey fan who's desperate for every scrap of information about his or her team? For me at least, it's the neurotic secrecy NHL teams insist on when it comes to player injuries.

Now I know sometimes the secrecy is reasonable. If, for example, Carey Price were heading into the playoffs with a wonky ankle, you wouldn't want the opposition to know how serious the injury was, where it was located or when he'd be likely to start. Not knowing which goalie they'd face would put a bit of doubt into the opposing players' heads. And if the location and severity of the injury were known, and Price decided to play through it, it wouldn't take much for a guy to accidentally-on-purpose fall on him just right and put him out of commission. In that situation, "lower body" and "day-to-day" make sense.

But during the regular season, when everybody already knows the guy is hurt; when he's out for several games anyway, what's the harm in saying "Carey Price has a sprained ankle and will be out for three weeks?" Players don't take chances during the regular season. They take their time and make sure they're a hundred percent healthy before they come back. This "Carey Price has a lower body injury and is day-to-day" is just irritating and frustrating for fans who want to know what's going on with the team and what lineup we can expect to see on a given night. Knowing when the guy is coming back gives us some sense of how badly he's hurt and what the consequences might be for the team and the rest of the players.

Less obsessive fans might ask why any of that matters. The player will be back when he's back, right? Well, though that's true, the very definition of fan (short for fanatic) means we want to know what's happening. We're connected to this team and we want to be able to project wins and losses and lineups based on who's going to be in or out of the lineup.

And we care about the players. We want to know if a guy is struggling through a tough rehab or is trying a revolutionary new treatment. We want to cheer on a favourite player as we follow his progress back to the ice. But all the secrecy surrounding injuries means those stories are closed to us.

I understand an NHL team has its reasons for secrecy sometimes. But the silly policy of keeping all injuries under wraps is insulting to the intelligence of fans who saw a guy get a hit to the shoulder that obviously caused an injury and is later called an "upper body" problem.

Right now, I want to know what's wrong with Carey Price. We all know it's a groin or an ankle. The opposition teams know too. So what's the problem with letting us know what it is and how long he'll be out? It's not as though it'll make a difference to his length of recovery time or anything like that. Looking at the schedule, I want to know if he'll be available for the Bruins game. I want to know how much hope I should have for a victory, and what weapons the Canadiens will have ready in their arsenal against their biggest rival.

But I don't know anything. The team won't tell us, and that's really annoying.

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