Getty Images

Many in NHL just fine with vague injury descriptions

Veteran coach Ken Hitchcock struck a nerve earlier this season when he decried the longstanding NHL practice of describing injuries in the vaguest terms possible.

An injury can be upper-body, lower-body or undisclosed, except Hitchcock and the Dallas Stars prefer to be more forthright. Defenseman Marc Methot had a knee injury, Martin Hanzal had a hamstring injury and Stephen Johns was dealing with concussion symptoms.

”Rather than go through the dance and play the big game, we just decided let’s get it out there so they can print it, move on and let’s get on with the subject of what’s going on on the team,” Hitchcock said.

This is a far cry from the world of the NFL, where teams must reveal specific injuries. Coaches and NHL officials point to gambling and fantasy football as driving forces behind those detailed NFL injury reports, noting hockey has far less of that; one NHL player even joked that it would be foolish for anyone to bet on the sport.

Yet more people are. Westgate sports book vice president Jay Kornegay said the addition and success of the Vegas Golden Knights has at least tripled the amount of bets placed on NHL games this season. He said the gambling public isn’t affected much by the information or lack thereof about injuries.

”There’s information out there if you really want to dissect the injury,” Kornegay said. ”There’s only maybe a handful of guys that might make a major impact, like (Connor) McDavid or (Auston) Matthews or someone like that. Could make maybe a 15-cent impact in the line, which is very minimal. Almost everybody else is like zero impact or maybe five cents impact. … It wouldn’t be like (Tom) Brady being out.”

The NHL represents less than 5 percent of the total amount bet at the Westgate, and less than 6 percent for online sports book Bovada.

League executives and coaches have little to no appetite to change things.

”I would ask the question, ‘Why is it important that you know everything?”’ Los Angeles Kings coach John Stevens said. ”I think sometimes it protects the player. Sometimes a player’s working through an injury. If he’s coming back, opponents might know. If it’s a knee injury, they might try to take advantage of it.”

The collective bargaining agreement doesn’t require any specificity be included in injury announcements. And that means they vary dramatically among the 31 teams.

NHL Injury Viz , which tracks information about player injuries and illnesses, ranks teams on an ”evasiveness index” based on how many injuries are called upper- or lower-body, undisclosed or soreness. Through Jan. 20 games, the Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers were labeled the most evasive, while the New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild were the most open.

When Washington Capitals winger Andre Burakovsky underwent surgery to repair a broken left thumb in October, the team announced it as such. Upon his return, Burakovsky wore extra padding and worried little about opponents hacking at his thumb to try to reinjure it.

”When I’m playing, I’m playing,” Burakovsky said. ”I don’t really focus on if they’re going to go after my thumb or whatever it is.”

The central debate over disclosure comes down to whether revealing specific injuries puts players in danger of being targeted. Hitchcock said ”there’s too much respect in the league” for that, but Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik disagreed.

”I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of guys, but there’s definitely more than a handful of (players) in the league that would target guys if they knew where they were hurt,” Orpik said. ”I don’t really see what you gain by releasing it.”

Hitchcock’s comments generated chatter around the league and a variety of opinions, but don’t expect the current system to change any time soon.

”At the end of the day, I’m not sure it’s really anybody’s right to know exactly what’s ailing a player,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. ”Perhaps there’s kind of fan interest in how long he’ll be gone, when he can be back to the lineup, etc., etc., but what the precise nature of the injury is I’m not sure is really appropriate for public consumption.”

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said he generally agrees with Hitchcock and doesn’t mind disclosing injuries, except he doesn’t like talking about head injuries. Jets coach Paul Maurice went the other way, saying teams have a ”responsibility” to show the NHL is handling concussions the right way but cited privacy concerns in the larger discussion about revealing specific injuries.

Then there’s Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters, who wouldn’t mind an NFL-like policy.

”It’d be nice if the NHL just said, hey, make it full disclosure. I’d have no problem with that – as long as it’s consistent across the board,” Peters said.

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

For more NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Scroll Down For:

    The Buzzer: Raanta shutout, Brassard showcase, Blackhawks finally win

    Getty Images
    1 Comment

    Players of the Night:

    Antti Raanta, Arizona Coyotes: Raanta shutout Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, stopping all 40 shots sent his way for his first goose egg as a member of the Coyotes.

    Derick Brassard, Ottawa Senators: The Derick Brassard Showcase continued on Saturday night. The Senators forward, who has been the subject of trade speculation leading up to the trade deadline in two weeks, scored in his fourth straight game and added two helpers in a 6-3 win against the New York Rangers.

    Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights: Smith extended his point streak to seven games, scoring twice and adding a helper in a 6-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens. Smith has five goals and seven assists during his streak and now has 51 points in 58 games this season.

    Anders Nilsson, Vancouver Canucks: Nilsson turned aside 44 of the 45 shots he faced from one of the league’s hottest teams in the Boston Bruins. The Canucks obliged their goaltender, scoring six and chasing Tuukka Rask in a 6-1 win.

    Jonathan Toews and the rest of the Chicago Blackhawks: Losers of eight straight coming into Saturday, the Blackhawks finally ended the streak, putting up seven goals against the Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals. Toews had a goal and two assists in the game. It was Chicago’s first win of the month and their seven goals were half of the number they scored in their previous eight games.

    Eddie Lack, New Jersey Devils: Lack wasn’t supposed to be playing against the league’s top team. But there he was on Saturday, stopping 48 of 51 shots against Stamkos, Kucherov and Co. He even out-dueled Andrei Vasilevskiy, who will likely win the Vezina in June. Impressive stuff.

    Highlights of the Night:

    Ryan Hartman, untouchable:

    Nikita Scherbak’d:

    Matt Murray did this two nights ago. Deja vu:

    Two-pad stack alert:

    Factoids of the Night:

    The season can’t end fast enough for the Oilers:

    The Golden Knights are creeping toward another record:

    Evgeni Malkin hits 900:

    MISC:

    Scores:

    Kings 4, Sabres 2

    Ducks 3, Wild 2 (SO)

    Senators 6, Rangers 3

    Coyotes 1, Oilers 0

    Golden Knights 3, Canadiens 3

    Devils 4, Lightning 3

    Penguins 5, Maple Leafs 3

    Red Wings 3, Predators 1

    Blackhawks 7, Capitals 1

    Canucks 6, Bruins 1

    Panthers 6, Flames 3


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Blackhawks fans tossed after racist taunts toward Capitals’ Devante Smith-Pelly

    Associated Press
    4 Comments

    Four Chicago Blackhawks fans were kicked out of Saturday’s game against the Washington Capitals at United Center after racially-charged taunts were made toward Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly.

    Smith-Pelly, serving a five-minute major for fighting in the third period, got upset with a fan next to him who, according to the Washington Post, was chanting, “Basketball, basketball basketball,” toward Smith-Pelly, who is black. 

    “There’s absolutely no place in a game of hockey, or a country, for racism,” Trotz said after the game. “I think it’s disgusting. There’s no place for it. The athletes in this country don’t deserve that. It just shows ignorance.”

    Trotz said he hadn’t spoken with DSP about the incident, but said he was upset and his teammates had been talking with him.

    DSP did not speak with the media following the game, which the Capitals lost 7-1.

    February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

    The Blackhawks issued a statement following the game

    ““We were made aware of an incident at tonight’s game involving a small group of attendees who made harmful comments directed at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly,” a Hawks spokesperson said. “The fans were immediately removed and we apologize to Smith-Pelly and the Washington Capitals organization. We are committed to providing an inclusive environment for everyone who attends our games and these actions will never be tolerated.”


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Should Miles Wood be suspended after boarding Vladislav Namestnikov? (video)

    SUN
    3 Comments

    Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang

    He won’t have much of a defense, it would seem.

    New Jersey Devils forward Miles Wood took off his responsible thinking cap on Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    In the second period, Woods came barrelling in on the Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov. The latter had already ushered the puck up the ice, and with his back turned to Woods, the Devils sophomore appeared to leave his feet, driving his shoulder into the nameplate of Namestnikov’s jersey.

    If that wasn’t enough, Andrej Sustr came in to defend his teammate and paid the price at the hands of Wood, who broke his visor with a punch, leaving Sustr bloodied.

    Wood was given a boarding minor on the play and an additional two minutes for roughing after he left Sustr in a mess. It wouldn’t be at all shocking if Wood is summoned by the NHL’s player safety department.

    Both Namestnikov and Sustr had to leave the game, but both returned in the third period.

    The Devils won the game 4-3. Guess who scored the game-winner…


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Cam Talbot, furious with overturned goal, launches expletive-laden tirade

    Getty Images
    7 Comments

    Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang

    Cam Talbot wasn’t too happy after losing to the bottom feeders of the NHL’s Western Conference on Saturday afternoon.

    The Oilers, who have Connor McDavid, couldn’t manage to score a goal against a team that’s given up the third most to opposing teams this season.

    And the goal they appeared to score to tie the game 1-1 in the third period was eventually overturned because of goaltender interference.

    Video review confirmed that Patrick Maroon impeded Antti Raanta’s ability to move his blocker side arm freely, a call that Talbot took exception to following the game.

    “It’s extremely frustrating, to have what seems like every single one of these calls go against us in the past two years is just unbelievable,” Talbot lamented to the media. “I’ve never seen anything like it. We challenge a goal, it stands. They challenge a goal on us for some reason it’s always waved off.

    “I just don’t understand it, it’s the exact same play that we had last week against L.A. where the guy clips my blocker. We challenge and it’s still a goal. Last year in the playoffs against  Corey Perry, same play, takes my blocker with him, puck goes blocker side and it’s still a goal on us. There’s just no consistency and I’m f***ing sick of it.”

    Answering another question, Talbot continued to drop f-bombs speaking to Robert Tychkowski of the Edmonton Journal.

    “The fact that every single goal is disallowed against us and every single call or every single time we challenge it’s still upheld. I don’t f***ing get it. They’re the same f***ing plays every time and for some reason, the call goes against us these past two years. We haven’t won one challenge in the past two years. It’s ridiculous. I just don’t get it.” 

    This looks one part frustration and another part sour grapes. There have been some blown calls this season, for sure, including against the Oilers.

    Here.

    Here.

    And here.

    But this one the Situation Room got right.

    Meanwhile, Talbot’s Oilers were shutout for the seventh time this season. They continue to wildly underachieve, despite having names like McDavid and Draisaitl. And they have to watch former teammates like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle light it up with their new teams.

    Sure, Talbot and Co. can blame it a host of external issues. But he and the Oilers have to start looking within. They didn’t become bottom feeders because a goal got overturned.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck