Something is lost in translation for the Chicago Blackhawks
Amid the current climate, every time you hear “unfit to play” it immediately assumes COVID-19, and it’s unnerving when it’s the Blackhawks’ captain, Jonathan Toews.
In just over a week, Captain Serious, and the rest of the Chicago Blackhawks will get on a plane to take on Edmonton.
Or will they?
What does “unfit to play” even mean? Something makes no sense about this rhetoric, but the league seems to be insisting on it.
Maybe we could try it at work.
Me: “Sorry, boss. Can’t come in today, I’m unfit to work.”
Boss: “What? What are you talking about? You were due here two hours ago. Get in here.”
Me: “Yeah, sorry. Can’t tell you why gotta keep things discrete. See you tomorrow, probably.”
That kind of feels like what we’re seeing with the NHL right now, and every time player steps off the ice it could be something as basic a broken skate blade.
Elliotte Friedman weighed in on “unfit to play” during a SportsNet interview explaining, that there might be contact tracing issues with regards to COVID-19 and that they have to keep an eye on players because the league doesn’t know who a player has, or hasn’t been in contact with. However, he stressed that people shouldn’t assume that there’s a positive test.
Friedman was referencing the Bruins and the Flames, but the same holds Chicago as well.
Corey Crawford, who is also “unfit to play” may or may not be on that flight. At this point, the language around players not being present for practice is just kind of silly. When you consider Crawford’s extended absence, Friedman’s perspective about potential problems with contact tracing makes sense.
NBCSports put this situation pretty succinctly saying:
"If you’ve followed coverage of NHL training camp news at PHT, you realize that teams aren’t being forthcoming with injury updates. Chalk that up to the culture of the league, and even NHL mandates, but it leads to “COVID-19, injury, or restroom run?” debates. None of this is fun."
Probably everyone agrees. In Philadelphia Carter Hart was deemed, “unfit to play”, but his teammates hinted that he was just injured, not sick. I’m not sure the players allowed to do that, but it hasn’t happened for the Blackhawks. If they haven’t been on the ice, Chicago’s players simply are described as “unfit to play”.
The thing that doesn’t make sense is, what determines a player becoming “unfit to play”, whether its drills or a scrimmage? And when does someone become “unfit to fly” as Corey Crawford might very well be? The players aren’t all sick, and insisting on this abstract language isn’t doing anyone any favors.
Why is Brent Seabrook on the ice? We all admire his dedication, but if anyone should be unfit to play it’s the guy who just had three surgeries, two of which were to repair his hips. Somehow, he’s on the ice every day, and comfortably being beaten in drills.
Sit down Seabrook, and take some more time to recover.
None of the Blackhawks has played since March, and now players like Jonathan Toews can’t finish practice? Does Toews need to be kept fresh for Edmonton, despite not having played a game for four months?
There’s certainly a need for privacy and discretion as the NHL tries to get itself going again. However, there’s also a need for sanity and reason.
If a player is hurt, just say it. Using blanket terminology such as “unfit to play” is even more ridiculous than “upper-body injury” when someone has a concussion. Hopefully, this one-size-fits-all approach to player absences goes away soon. It’s not benefitting anyone.