There is a code in every sport. A set of unwritten rules are passed down from generations of players and are adhered to, lest there be consequences. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Sidney Crosby helped break open the concussion issue almost a decade ago, but secrecy still permeates hockey as if injuries are war plans to be kept from Nazi spies.
The latest examples are a pair of star players at opposite ends of the NHL postseason and playoffs, Evgeni Malkin and Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.
The Penguins were quickly 86ed from the NHL postseason like Spicoli walking into All-American Burger with no shirt and no shoes (Fast Times reference). One of the many reasons the Penguins showed little life at the end was the subpar play of Malkin.
As we found out Monday, more than one week later, Malkin was injured and needed elbow surgery. He will need three to four weeks of rehab. As another addendum, Pittsburgh Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese, who some good moments in the Qualifying Round series against the Montreal Canadiens but was also on the wrong end of more moments, also underwent serious shoulder surgery and will be out for about six months.
NFL players manage to survive the brutal NFL world despite opponents being armed with the knowledge they have a tender spot. So why do we hide hockey injuries like state secrets?
Would you not have cut Malkin slack if you knew that bird had one wing? Same with Aston-Reese?
We’ll discuss why Aston-Reese was in the lineup over players like Sam Lafferty or Evan Rodrigues if he was that winged on another day. Playing with a severe injury is another part of the hockey culture that may need an update. There’s a difference between being a warrior and being a detriment.
Coaches are equally complicit, but I digress.
The secrecy surrounding Malkin and Aston-Reese caused buckets of criticism to come their way when it was unnecessary. But fans won’t move the needle on this argument. Here’s one sector who will: bettors.
Would bettors have tempered their action on the Pittsburgh Penguins if they knew star center Evgeni Malkin was injured? I bet a few would. And sports betting on hockey is only going to get bigger.
Sooner than later, hockey culture and wallets are going to collide. Always bet on the wallet (unless, of course, the wallet is injured).
Boston goalie Tuukka Rask is another prime example. He abruptly left the NHL bubble on Saturday before Game 3 of the Boston Round One series against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Of course, many defended Rask’s decision to be with family. But a lot of us raised an eyebrow, too (We weren’t allowed to say much, or the PC crowd was waiting to gather the offended mob for outrage and condemnation of our souls).
How could a player with a legit chance at the Stanley Cup just walk away?
Well, there is a rumor circulating why Rask left. According to the whispers from inside the hockey world, his family was not, as GM Don Sweeney said, fine and healthy.
Until Rask goes public, we can’t report the reason he left. Suffice to say, if the sources are correct, the reason is intensely personal and worthy of leaving the team.
Would it have hurt anyone, the Boston Bruins, Tuukka Rask, or even the NHL to admit Rask has more important and pressing family issues, and he needs to take a leave of absence?
There. Done. No further comments or questions would be necessary. Rask would have received full support from the hockey world. Instead, reporters were fishing around to find out just what the hell could pull a player out of a Stanley Cup chase.
Our sister site, Boston Hockey Now, has the best story which can be reported.
But secrecy, you know?
Information and truth in all of the above would have significantly changed the narrative and allowed the largely supportive hockey community to support its own, rather than questioning. Information and truth in the above would have spared the players unwarranted criticism, which the existing perceptions naturally invited.
Hockey fans want to support their own, unless its Jack Johnson, then it would still be his fault. Otherwise, a little truth would go a long way. It’s time to rewrite some of the hockey code.
In this world of social media and cameras at every corner, the truth will always come out. Maybe the hockey world would be wise to learn to get ahead of things instead of hiding then reacting.