“Upper body injury”, a teammate shouts from the other side of the locker room as blood drips from the finger of number nine. Jeers and laughs can be heard in amateur rinks all over the nation as fans, media, and even the players give there mixed reviews regarding the labeling of any injury as either an upper or lower body injury. If you have been living on the planet Venus for the past few months I’ll understand if you don’t know about the N.H.L.’s newest and most controversial rule. The ruling gives teams the right to withhold the specifics of player injuries from the fans and media. Three quarters of the way through the season and mixed reviews along with heavy criticism is finding its way back to the desk of N.H.L. Commissioner Gary Bettman and the N.H.L.’s 30 general managers who voted unanimously in favor of the new rule back in November. Did you get the memo Gary Bettman? Fans aren’t happy.
In an information savvy business like the media, it has Journalists up in arms since they are unable to properly inform hockey fans about there favorite stars off-ice status. If a fan is thinking about buying a mini-season game pack to watch Sydney Crosby play the Oilers, Canucks, and the Flames, then that fan has a right to know if Crosby will actually be playing. The growing consensus with Journalists is that the lack of information will lead to further speculation when reporting player injuries or they will face the iron fist of an angry fan base. Credibility with its fans should be a concern as the N.H.L. moves towards the completion of its first season with the implementation of this new rule.
Some tight lipped organizations like the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins will not disclose any information about player’s injuries while some clubs are opting to call it either an upper or lower body injury. After watching two of his players targeted during last seasons playoff run, Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland says he had enough and went to the N.H.L.’s governing body. Holland first suggested the rule for just during playoff time where he doesn’t think it’s necessary for the fans to know about every injury. That escalated into a full season selective secrecy at every team’s discretion. Johan Franzen came back during last season’s playoff run after suffering a head injury or what is now called an “upper body injury.” It was released to the public that Franzen was suffering from post concussion symptoms. Players from the opposition started taking extra liberties, and as a result the N.H.L. believes its new rule will protect players like Franzen from being targeted.
Should Johan Franzen have been on the ice if he was in that rough of shape? It’s a rough game out there and many of today’s athletes learn the mantra of, “winning at all cost.” Isn’t that what the N.H.L. uses to sell fans on the Stanley Cup each year. There is a reason why the Stanley cup is considered by many the most difficult trophy to win in pro sports. It’s a battle out there and players will take every advantage they can get to gain an edge on the competition.
In winters past there was no clear cut guide for teams to follow when reporting injuries to the public. This lead to bluffing, downright lying, and disclosures resembling complete honesty at times, but nobody really believed it anyways. The rule states that NHL clubs are prohibited from providing untruthful representation of the player or the status of his injury. Now it seems that N.H.L. teams are acting with more ethical respect towards each other, but it’s not right that the fans in the stands who pay for these players salaries are getting the short end of the stick.