Yesterday, I highlighted the negative impact that newspaper staffing cuts are having on the NHL. Well, a new policy this season regarding the disclosure of player injury information has been agreed upon by the league’s general managers in their June meeting. Unfortunately, PR personnel from across the league had no say in the matter and a former VP of media relations for the NY Islanders, Chris Botta, is unhappy with the results of the GM vote.
Another one: commentators will wonder why the National Football League does full disclosure on injuries, but the NHL can’t.
Just wait til a major market writer decides to use a reliable source to make his own season-ending injury announcement about a star player. Oh, I pray the confrontation is in a locker room hallway where I’m standing.
From a PR perspective, this is a bad move that will only help frustrate the fans and media. Jamie, a commenter at NYI Point Blank, responded to Chris’ comments with the following (and I couldn’t agree more):
This is NOT helpful to the PR pros out there, who, in my experience usually are the ones lobbying the coach / GM / Doctors to give the ok to servicing the media. I get the whole injury thing, but there are ways to help the media tell the story without painting a target on a guy. This is just going to strain media relationships for a league that NEEDS some media coverage.
The Newsday blog also makes some valid arguments on this policy including one that acknowledges it’s not a very fan friendly policy at that.
He was smiling, but general manager Garth Snow’s policy forbids discussing injuries in detail, and NHL general managers apparently have endorsed this policy. The idea is to prevent the opposition from knowing an opponent’s injuries, and it also allows GMs to hide injuries when they are trying to trade a player. The downside for the player, in addition to being forced to be less than honest with reporters, is that fans don’t know when a player is struggling to play through an injury. For instance, Mike Comrie was listed with the flu for one game last season when he actually was out with a hip injury that required surgery.
Chris Botta thinks that the GMs will have to revisit this policy by Christmas. As fans of the game, let’s hope he’s right. At the very least, make sure that fans know if the injury is enough to keep a player out of the game. They deserve to know who is healthy enough for the line-up and this policy could drive fantasy hockey players mad.
Update [October 25, 2008]: The LA Times just published an article asking the question, ‘Does anyone trust NFL injury reports?’ While the NFL can fine teams for inaccurate injury reports, people still find the reports laughable.
Some reports are just plain laughable. In New England, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had a streak of three consecutive years where his name appeared on every injury report, usually because of a “sore shoulder.”
That streak ended just before this season’s opener, when the Patriots submitted a list that did not include their star quarterback — even though Brady was truly injured, sitting out the exhibition season recovering from a foot injury.
Then, a cruel, ironic twist: In his first game in three years when he wasn’t mentioned in the injury report, Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury.