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Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Updated: November 6, 11:26 AM ET
Want full disclosure on NHL injuries? Vote for the LeBrun Amendment

By Pierre LeBrun
ESPN.com

Marian Gaborik has been out since mid-October with a "lower-body injury."

Sidney Crosby had an "undisclosed" injury for 48 hours before returning.

There was no update on Martin Brodeur's "bruised elbow" until it was announced three days later that he needed surgery and would be out three to four months.

Martin Brodeur
The topic of injury disclose has caused a great deal of consternation among fantasy owners and media.

The NHL's new policy on injury disclosure, or lack thereof, isn't winning over the media. By consequence, we doubt fans like it either, especially all those involved in fantasy pools who crave injury updates.

But clearly, it is a big winner with GMs, coaches and players.

"The most important thing is, how can we protect the players' safety in all aspects," New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told ESPN.com.

"I don't see why it's something that needs to be public information," Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford said. "From the fans' point of view, the player is either going to play or he's not going to play. If he's playing hurt, I don't think the team should have to tell the other team what his injury is. It's a delicate one.

"We try to get as much information out as we can, but I agree with the policy that information is withheld."

Let's back up for a second to give everyone the full picture.

Two seasons ago, in 2006-07, most NHL teams were using the "upper-body" or "lower-body" designations for injuries.

"Personally, I thought that was a bit of a farce," Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland said. "You had 50 people out with lower-body injuries. So, at the end of that season, we had meetings and the league instructed us to basically disclose every injury heading into the '07-08 season."

Last season, most teams complied and injury details were readily available throughout the league. Then came the playoffs.

"I didn't think there was anything wrong with the disclosure until you get to the Stanley Cup playoffs, and I don't know about other sports, but our athletes play injured," said Holland. "I had a couple of players during the playoffs come up to me and ask me not to disclose what their injury was. Then I called the league and I said, 'How do I handle this situation?'"

Johan Franzen suffered a head injury in the second round of last season's playoffs and the Wings were forced to announce it.

"Franzen comes back in the Dallas series and somebody takes a shot at his head, and then, we get into the Pittsburgh series, and Gary Roberts took a shot at his head," said Holland.

So when the GMs convened during the Stanley Cup finals in Detroit, Holland, buoyed by what his own players were telling him, argued it was time to revisit the policy.

"My feeling was, come playoff time, I don't that it's necessary for the fans to know every injury," said Holland. "We're trying to protect our players. There's competitive issues. I put on the table that we don't have to divulge every injury and it's really up to the club to handle injury disclosures as they see fit. Obviously, I got enough support from the GMs, and basically we were instructed by the league that we were now free to disclose injuries the way we wanted to disclose injuries."

Holland got a lot of support around the room.

"Our clubs were very strongly of the view that a strict disclosure policy on player injuries was not in the best interests of our players, or ultimately the league as a whole," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an e-mail. "After much debate and discussion on the matter, we concurred that it was sensible to change our policy and lessen injury disclosure requirements going forward.

"While our revised policy has generated attention, and in some cases criticism, from our media, we have not received negative feedback directly from our fans."

The NHL Players' Association is on board, as well.

"Anything that helps with the safety of our players we fully endorse," Glenn Healy, the NHLPA's director of player affairs, wrote in an e-mail. "We have been presented with a safety issue [by Holland] and we agree with the steps to better protect our players."

If they try to play hurt, injured players are targeted come playoff time. That's a fact.

"I wouldn't say blatantly, but especially in the playoffs, if you know someone has a sore shoulder, or sore anywhere, you're going to make them pay the price," Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jeff Finger said. "Not necessarily try to injure them, but make them pay the price and not pass up an opportunity to give them a shot. Cleanly, of course.

"But I definitely don't think it's a bad thing to maybe hide some of it. I don't think it's a bad thing at all."

The NHL's injury policy is the extreme of the most popular sports league in North America -- the NFL. The NFL promotes full disclosure of injuries, releases weekly reports and enforces fines on teams who falsify those reports.

"This isn't football," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "Hey, why do they publish the injuries in football? You know why -- Las Vegas. It's all about betting. And hockey isn't that kind of a sport.

"The guys are warriors in hockey. I don't think their injuries should be discussed the way everybody wants."

Because there is proof of targeting, we can buy the players' safety issue. But our argument would be that the policy should be amended so full disclosure still exists from mid-September (the start of training camps) through March 1 (the beginning of the stretch run). From then through the playoffs, teams can hide injury details all they want.

Holland didn't shoot down our idea.

"I mean, listen, we've disclosed Johan Franzen has a Grade 2 ACL sprain and that he's out 3-4 weeks," said Holland. "We disclosed the Andreas Lilja injury. For me personally, I just think over 82 games you're probably going to play your player when they're healthy. But the playoffs are different."

Exactly.

"All I want is some consistency," Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero said. "Either we all do it, or we all don't. We all know what the NFL does, but they all have to disclose. I'm up for either way, but as long as everyone is doing the same thing."

We vote for the LeBrun Amendment. You?

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.