Mum's the word on injuries

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

Ron Wilson revealed yesterday that defenceman Pavel Kubina recently had banged up his knee.

Didn't someone inform the Maple Leafs coach that disclosing such information is like leaking a state secret?

Under the NHL's new injury policy, organizations no longer need to make any injury details public, other than to acknowledge that a player is hurt and will be out for a period of time. There is no obligation to even identify an injury as being "upper body" or "lower body" -- two of Pat Quinn's favourite terms during his tenure with the Leafs.

Here is the content of a memo sent out last week by the league to teams pertaining to the new injury policy.

At the June meetings of the general managers, the managers voted to modify the policy pertaining to the disclosure of player injury information. The new policy, which takes place immediately, is as follows:

Clubs no longer are required to disclose the specific nature of players injuries (but under no circumstances should club personnel provide untruthful information about the nature of a player injury or otherwise misrepresent a player's condition). Clubs are, however, required to disclose the fact that a player is expected to miss a game due to injury, or will not return to a game following an injury."

What does it mean?

In the words of one NHL executive: "Reporters could see a guy's knee buckle. If he's done for the night, the team will tell you. But if you ask if it was a knee, the reply can be: 'No comment.' "

Such secrecy is certain to rile up scribes and spectators alike but, according to Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford, teams should not be pressured to reveal the nature of injuries.

"Why would we?" Rutherford said last night. "What's the purpose?

"The fans would like to have the info and the media sees it as part of the job, but we're dealing with guys coming off injuries who are being targeted by the opposition. If players know a guy on the other team has been out with a bad shoulder, guess what they go after?

"We've seen recently with all the parity in the league that there is more at stake than ever. In the new NHL there are more teams thinking they can take a run at the Stanley Cup and they are looking for any edge they can get. I understand why people out there would want to know, but players and teams need to be protected."

Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher was not at the GM's meetings in June when the new policy was constructed but was quick to point out last night that "we've been pretty good at keeping you guys up to date."

Who would have thought the Leafs would be one of the BETTER teams when it came to disclosing the nature of injuries?

CROSS CHECKS

Rutherford had hoped former Maple Leaf Jeff O'Neill would continue his comeback attempt with the Hurricanes instead of pulling the plug. "It was his decision," Rutherford said. "When you sit out an entire season it's a steep hill to climb. Maybe Jeff thought it was too steep. Personally, I would have liked to seen him start in the minors to get back his conditioning and timing. I think he could have played another five years" ... If Fletcher did, in fact, offer Anaheim a conditional first-rounder and a couple of prospects for defenceman Mathieu Schneider, 39, and forward Bobby Ryan, 21, was it really as crazy as some think? The pick in 2009 could not have been higher than sixth, meaning the Leafs still would have a shot at John Tavares or Victor Hedman. Had the Leafs finished with a top-five pick in '09, Anaheim would have received a first-rounder in 2010. Either way, the Leafs would have received Ryan, the No. 2 pick in 2005, and Schneider, who then could be moved to a contender later on for a package of picks and/or prospects. Makes sense here.


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