When you look around the NHL, it seems like some of the same teams are hurt year in, year out. Sometimes that string of misfortune isn’t just bad luck (and no, the picture isn’t meant to imply Pittsburgh).


The time-frame that a player needs to properly heal from an injury shouldn’t be disputed, but it’s amazing how some players end up back on the ice still hobbling from something that needs another week or two.

First off, your coach wants you back in the lineup as soon as possible. While today’s coaches are learning to be more understanding when a guy needs to sit out a game, the majority of guys still subscribe to the “tape an aspirin to it,” “it’s a long way from the heart” school of thinking.

They’ll bypass the training staff and ask how you’re doing, they’ll suggest you push along the timetable given to you. All in a very nice way, usually, but as we saw with Evgeni Malkin and Dan Bylsma in 24/7, sometimes a coach thinks a guy can go when the player isn’t so sure (having your injury be “soreness” as his currently is doesn’t look very good in the hockey world, even though it’s likely that he’s really hurting).

There’s pressure from fans at the NHL level too – not that anyone really says much to them about it, but these guys know they’re wanted back soon.

So you have a couple outside forces pushing you to get back as soon as possible, which occasionally ends up being too soon.

You’ll notice that some teams consistently suffer higher injury totals than others. (I’m not gonna drag up the man-games right now, because the point here isn’t to throw anyone in particular under the bus, this is just to share what happens behind closed doors.)

Well, like coaches, some medical guys subscribe to the “this is hockey, you can play hurt” attitude too. Some still believe in “do whatever it takes to get ‘im ready.” Hell, some just want to keep the coach happy so they can stay on staff.

This would be tempting: “He’s hurt.” AV: “No he isn’t.” “You’re right, he’s fine.”

Those guys are dangerous.

On the flip side: we had a guy when I was in Boise, Brad Jellis, who was the opposite of that. He was thorough, and he wasn’t pushing anyone off his training table and onto the ice until they were ready, and he made them rehab thoroughly. Our team stayed as healthy as a hockey team can possibly be. (Update: just checked to see where he’s at now - the Dallas Stars. Unsurprising)

The reason having a conservative medical guy is so important is mostly for political reasons in the dressing room. You need a guy to fight back for you against the people whose personal success also depends on you playing. It’s not necessarily that conservative team doctors are better – hell, the ones who push ‘em out may know better than any doctor out there the problems and risks, they just think that’s the way it is in hockey.

It’s not like every team has the same rules for what level of injury constitutes missing a game, and how hurt you have to be before they start pulling out needles.

If I ran a team that showed a consistently high number of injuries, I’d turn the medical staff over in a heartbeat. Some years are flukes, a few are possible, but eventually, a trend is a telling trend.

Comments (8)

  1. Do you think any hockey players have ever pulled a Mox and Tweeder from Varsity Blues on their coach and refused to play if they manipulated a player to go out and play hurt?

  2. Hum… Can you explain the Canucks mystery to me. They seem to break D faster than anybody and are specialists with flukey inhuries: Malhotra eyes, Bieksa with 2 (2!) skate lacerations, Hodgson’s back… should we cry fool at the medical team?

    • Fluke injuries don’t really fit very well under this umbrella. You can’t really blame the medical staff for a puck in the face or a skate laceration. Constant groin pulls, muscle strains, or major concussions following minor concussions? Maybe you have a problem on your hands.

      Then again, sometimes a player (*cough* Brent Sopel) will bend down to pick up a cracker and throw his back out.

  3. There’s also probably some perception that “That guy replacing me is doing Good. I need to get my ass back into the lineup asap!”

    In Nashville, the policy is that no one loses his job to injury. When you’re ready, your job is there for you. In theory at least, this should keep a player from coming back too fast,

    Justin, is this ‘job assurance’-type policy widespread in the pros?

  4. @BeCanucks

    Nope, those I think are mostly legitimate flukes, but take a look at Edmonton: There is pretty good evidence, including player anecdotes, that would lead one to conclude that they at least have had a systematic problem with rushing players back.

  5. See that’s the thing though – common sense is allowed. You can’t blame a trainer when a guy damn near loses his vision, or in my case, spends 2-3 months with his jaw wired shut (under Jellis, OMG!). But we’re still allowed to admit that one guy with “dr” in front of his name may be better or worse than the next guy sporting the same letters.

  6. One guy OR GIRL with “Dr” in front of their name may be better or worse… JEEZ, Bourne.

  7. Example…See Oilers, Edmonton.

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