The trend of hiding injuries is nothing new in sports. But Chicago coach Joel Quenneville may have added a new wrinkle to the art of deception.
Blackhawks star Marian Hossa was a late scratch for Game 3 Monday against the Bruins, replaced by Ben Smith.
On Tuesday, Quenneville was quizzed why Smith hadn’t taken part in the warmup if there was a chance that Hossa could not go.
“He would have taken warmup if we wanted him to,” Quenneville finally said. “He knew there was a chance he was going to play. He was getting himself ready.
“I just didn’t want to tip our hand that there’s something going on.”
There’s the rub.
Quenneville not only hid the nature of Hossa’s injury (upper body), he started off by hiding any hint that there was an injury.
Did it help? Well, the Bruins won the game and Boston coach Claude Julien admitted only to surprise at seeing the game sheet that omitted Hossa.
“But to be honest with you, there wasn’t any changes in our game,” Julien said. “As I mentioned the other day when I was asked about another player, we don’t make our game plan based on an individual.
“I can definitely tell you they lost a pretty important player on their roster, but that doesn’t mean we change our game. I think it’s important we stick with what we believe in.”
The Hossa incident triggered several questions about the practice of not divulging injury information or just offering a blanket upper or lower body description.
“I guess we’ll go back to history on that one.” said Quenneville. “We don’t disclose injuries, particularly come playoff time.”
While he wouldn’t detail the when or what of Hossa’s injury, Quenneville was willing to say why.
What is the strategic disadvantage of ‘fessing up, he was asked.
“I think that’s self-explanatory,” the coach replied.
Julien said he understands the deception when it comes to protecting a player.
“I think if it’s something that doesn’t put your player in danger, I don’t see why you shouldn’t talk about it,” he said.
“There’s times where you have to protect your players, and I understand it. I know it’s frustrating for you guys as media. You’re trying to share that information. The most important thing for us, we can take the heat for that, is protecting your players. I respect that from other teams. When you’re playing against each other, stuff like that, you know exactly where everybody is coming from.”
Then Julien smiled.
“I’ll share one with you. Yesterday in a warmup. Zdeno Chara fell down, got a cut over the eye. I’ll let you know about that. That’s not a hidden injury.”
Julien had provided those details the night before, when asked about the injury.
But Chara himself offered little other than to say he lost an edge. Then the Bruins captain asked if there were questions about the game.
Quenneville, meanwhile, stayed mum on how Hossa was injured. The previous night he had rejected reports — including from his own team’s official Twitter account — that the star forward was hurt in the warmup.
“I’m not going to get exactly what the injury is or where it occurred but I’m going to say he’s likely to play (Wednesday) night,” he said Tuesday.