The NHL’s injury reporting has become a well-established joke around the hockey community. Player injuries are described based on whether they’re north or south of the the waistline, and that’s where the detail ends. A player could have a ruptured testicle of plantar fasciitis, and either way all we know is they have a lower body injury. A torn ab is equal to a concussion is equal to a snapped clavicle – “upper body.”
The idea behind this is to protect players who are tough enough to play through their injuries, but not smart enough to protect themselves (I kid, you gotta play through some pain). Hockey is one of the few sports where you don’t just have to deal with the pain to be at your best, you also have to deal with the vultures. If you can talk yourself through the pain in baseball, you’re generally free to go about your business. Same with golf. Basketball, for the most part, is also a matter of you versus the pain. Football allows for your opponent to give you an extra shot if it’s convenient, but in hockey you carry a weapon and can really pinpoint an opponent’s problem area.
Is the secrecy necessary? Do players really want to hurt one another?
Yes, and yes they do.
Not out of being evil or anything, but few people make it to the highest level of their profession without a dash of “whatever it takes, better you suffer than me.” Most guys will feel bad at making someone endure some pain, but if it means they don’t play for the rest of playoffs? C’mon, of course he’s targeting that guy’s messed-up wrist.
They don’t want to alter another man’s life. Nobody wants to be responsible for a situation like Marc Savard’s, or to break anyone’s neck or anything. But in the playoffs, there’s no doubt that an injury will get targeted if it’s common knowledge. “You never want to hurt anyone,” which we so often hear in post-game scrums, is simply not always the truth. I’ve had coaches say “I’m not saying go out of your way, but we all know ____’s left hand is giving him some trouble, so if we can make his life more difficult in this series, don’t hesitate to do it.”
Consider what happens when a guys glove falls off…
…the chop is coming every time. If you have the opportunity to break a knuckle or two of Duncan Keith’s, well, why not? His hand will heal, and things get a lot easier if he’s not playing. (This is not my moral stance, as it’s certainly not the low ground, I’m just sharing this in the wake of the common complaints about how NHL injuries are shared with the public.)
The seemingly ridiculous safeguard of “upper and lower body injuries” is in place for a reason.
Playing hurt is one thing. Having that injury exposed to your opponent is another one altogether.