x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Gregg Patton says player safety is of top priority in NHL

Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins. AFP
Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins. AFP

Reporters covering the NHL have been known to complain about, or make light of, the league’s vague way of reporting injuries.

Players are said to be suffering “upper-body injuries” or “lower-body injuries.” Until the player or team decides to elaborate, the specific nature of the medical issue usually stays under wraps.

As much as reporters value full disclosure, access and transparency, we must concede there is a good reason for the policy – to protect players from being targeted by opponents seeking any kind of edge.

Players certainly deserve the protection, for whatever it is worth. They often play games with bumps, bruises and worse.

Consider the case of Patrice Bergeron, the Boston Bruins forward who struggled through the last three games of the Stanley Cup Finals last spring.

No one knew what he was going through until the series ended. It was not pretty.

In Game 4, he suffered torn rib cartilage. In Game 5, he broke a rib. In Game 6, he separated a shoulder. At some point in Game 6, his lung also collapsed, either from the broken rib or a needle poke from a pain-killing shot. After playing more than 17 minutes in Game 6, Bergeron had trouble breathing and was taken to a Boston hospital.

He spent two days there, recovering. Having access to that information while it was happening would have helped the story-telling, but it is doubtful it would have helped Bergeron. There is no question which is more important.

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