Years ago, former Blackhawk Adam Burish limped out of the team’s locker room wearing a walking boot just as coach Joel Quenneville was describing the forward’s injury as “lower-body.”
That Burish was in plain sight mattered not.
The absurdity of such a scene isn’t uncommon in hockey, the only major pro sport that leaves disclosure of the nature of injuries to the discretion of its teams. Most teams stick to the upper-body or lower-body silliness. The antiquated line of thinking is tied to fear of further injury from opponents.
Not much has changed in the nine or 10 years since Burish limped right past Quenneville.
“We’re not talking about the injury,” Quenneville said not long ago when asked about ailing goalie Corey Crawford. “Upper-body, but we don’t discuss injuries. We expect him to be fine.”
When did it happen, Coach?
“I don’t think it was a defining blow,” he said.
Is he being treated by team doctors, outside doctors, voodoo?
“I won’t get into that part of it,” Quenneville said.
Crawford, who has been on injured reserve since Dec. 27, might have the worst migraine ever. Or a sprained pinkie. Or concussion-related symptoms, as has been reported.
General manager Stan Bowman kept up the hush-hush too.
“It’s the same as Joel has said — there’s no update right now,” Bowman said before Crawford returned to the ice Feb. 3 to begin workouts.
Except Quenneville hadn’t said anything. He still hasn’t. The Hawks still profess not to know if or when Crawford will return.
“There’s not much to say until he’s back on the ice,” Bowman said back then. “It’s sort of status quo right now. I’m sure you’ll be the first to know when he’s back.”
Crawford joined the team in Arizona on Monday to participate in his first morning skate with the team since the injury.
Afterward, he talked mostly about being happy to be with the team on the road. Crawford offered no details about his ailment or recovery or the ups and downs of the experience.
“I don’t want to get into any of that,” he said. “We’re just being positive about it and (we) hope it’s as good and fast as it can be.”
But wouldn’t it be easier to be transparent? Wouldn’t that quell speculation and squash rumors, of which there have been a few about Crawford?
Several players I’ve spoken with in casual conversation about the secretive injury practice questioned its effectiveness.
One said players and officials do a good job policing the game themselves. For the most part, he said, the days of goons gunning for an injured area are gone. He said if players knew the nature of injuries to other players, they may be more hesitant to aim for those areas for fear of retaliation, fines or suspensions.
“The whole thing is dumb,” he said.
Stars coach Ken Hitchcock also thinks the practice is poppycock.
“We collectively hate playing the game,” he told reporters in November. “What I mean is, we say ‘upper body,’ then you … look up things or go to the doctors (to) find out what part of the upper body.”
Hitchcock also dismissed the idea that players purposely would try to hurt one another.
“Nobody thinks like that,” he said. “Our feeling is just tell them what the injury is and move forward. Let’s stop the dance.”
The Stars back up their coach’s belief.
The team tweeted earlier this season: “Marc Methot had his knee scoped and he will be out 4-6 weeks. Martin Hanzal is expected to miss 3-7 days with a hand injury.”
Can you imagine the Blackhawks partaking in such honesty?
“Corey Crawford will miss the next eight weeks with concussion-related symptoms. He’s seeing team doctors.”
Keeping injuries a secret helps teams avoid public scrutiny. It can be confusing. It can be dangerous.
The truth can hurt. Trying to conceal it can hurt even more.