I've vented about this before, but now it appears it will become a topic recurring again and again and again. The blight of injury misinformation has somehow, defying all logic, become an NHL league-wide policy.
When I saw the note buried in Gerg Logan's notes about the Isles' non-disclosure on Chris Campoli's shoulder, I thought, "Here we go again." I also immediately wondered how former Isles PR head and now quasi-independent blogger, Chris Botta, would respond. Botta is (granted, I've never met him, but from all accounts he is) a PR man in the classic sense of "truth and communication is always the best strategy." But no strategic communicator has been closer to both sides of this issue than Botta was: Knowing info is good for fan/media relations on one hand, but knowing the NHL old guard and many players -- i.e. his employers and the players whose cooperation he needed to do his job -- would rather keep it all "in the room."
Fortunately for Isles fans, Botta is outraged. And he sums the issue plain and simple: "When it comes to injuries, a balance between protecting your players and informing your fans can certainly be struck." Hopefully Botta beats the drum far and wide.
This is such a no-brainer, I honestly hate writing about it. I hate to get all hyperbolic about it, but it is insanely unjustifiable, and it's an example of the type of insular thinking that makes the NHL a media punching bag. It's the kind of thing that needs to be set forcefully at the central office, so the GMs stop worry about the tiny competitive edge they could get by hiding injury information like news at the Kremlin. But I don't see the league changing unless they realize fans -- not just reporters, the stereotypical bogeymen -- don't like it, either. So I'll be tacky and quote myself here rather than recreating all my thoughts:
In one way my interest in this sport is dependent on having a decent amount of info with which to assess what I’m watching. Just like I want to know if one team I’m watching has twice the payroll as its opponent, I also want to know if my top scorer has had shoulder surgery: Maybe that will lead me to cut him slack, maybe it will lead me to say retire the old bum. That’s my right as a fan ... Likewise, I want to know if my franchise ‘keeper on a 15-year deal has had surgery on both hips and a knee in years 1 and 2 of his deal. [New edit: Or a freaking concussion!] Etc., etc.NHL leaders will likely tell themselves, "See, these diehard fans keep writing and coming to games regardless of our injury policy. Revenue is grand." Fine. For the short term. But the NHL is a niche league with strained credibility in many areas. A league that needs to think long-term to ensure growth (i.e. North American popularity). And here is a gift-wrapped opportunity to be a leader: to be a league that plays it straight with fans, that is as fan-friendly as its mythically down-to-earth players. But the GMs, in their short-sighted nature, have screwed that up.
That influences my assessment of the roster, my evaluation of the goaltending, my opinion of what kind of back-up goalie we need. [Edit: To say nothing of implications for fantasy players, another revenue source.] And as long as the league is publicizing the draft, publicizing free agency, and publicizing the players — make no mistake, those are all part of the PR picture to build fan interest and buy-in of the product — then they owe paying customers that kind of communication.
If they want to pass up that opportunity, if they want to inch closer to the unreality of pro wrestling, if they want to widen the disconnect between players and fans ("Is he hurt, or does he just suck?" and "Why do they boo me when I'm doing my best on one leg?"), if they want to give us another reason to question why we bother paying escalating prices when there are other hobbies and diversions in this multichannel world, that's their decision. And their long-term loss.