Dallas Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock turned some heads last week when he made comments against the NHL’s injury reporting policies. Hitchcock’s comments were not controversial, however they were the first that anyone within the league had publicly taken a stance against a rather secretive way of doing business. The NHL does not require its teams to submit detailed injury reports like the National Football League does, for example. Instead, fans and opponents are left with the infamous “lower body” and “upper body” injuries which could be anything from a broken toe to a concussion and infinite other ailments in between. Yet, last week Hitchcock’s Stars came out and announced specific injuries: knee surgery for Marc Methot and a hand injury for Martin Hanzal. In addressing the media on his deviation from the norm, Hitchcock was blunt:
“I think we collectively hate playing the game. What I mean by that is we say upper body, then you go on the phone, and then you look up things or you go to the doctors, find out what part of the upper body… We try to make your work easier, quite frankly… Nobody thinks like that. Our feeling is just ’tell them what the injury is and move it forward, and let’s stop the dance.'”
What Hitchcock alludes to is that secrecy surrounding injuries in the NHL is nothing more than a “game” at this point. The media and thus fans and opponents eventually find out the pertinent information and hiding behind vague “upper-body” and “lower-body” injuries is merely a hindrance on the flow of information.
So what do other coaches think? Since Hitchcock’s remarks, this has been a hot button topic for the league’s other bench bosses. Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock was asked on Saturday what his opinion was on the subject and agreed with Hitchcock on all but one specific injury: concussions. “I don’t like talking about head injuries,” Babcock qualified, “Then there are all these things about concussions and half the time it’s neck or something… I want the player and the right people to work that out.” Despite otherwise agreeing with Hitchcock, Babcock did add that the Leafs plan to stick with “upper-body” and “lower-body”, though he respects the right of all coaches to disclose injuries as they like.
Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice was less cordial about Hitchcock’s comments when he addressed them this morning, completely disagreeing:
“You’re not allowed to tell anybody what a doctor knows. They’ve got laws. People can get sued for letting that kind of information (out). I don’t really have the right to come out and tell you how a guy is feeling…I would think on average (that) somewhere between nine and 11 players, about half your hockey team, every single night, has something that they’re dealing with. Bone bruises, I had a guy playing with cracked ribs. I don’t want anybody to know that.”
Maurice seems to take the stance that not only is revealing a specific injury a violation of a player’s privacy, but it also can be detrimental to the team. The one point on which Maurice agreed with Hitchcock over Babcock was concussions, as Maurice feels that there is a “responsibility to show our league is handling them in a certain way.”
For media and fans, the clear choice is with Hitchcock, as complete information is always a benefit to the spectators. So long as coaches support vague injury reports though, it seems unlikely that the league will implement any blanked changes to injury disclosures.