The NHL’s injury detection policy is a dilemma about sports gambling

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Before the 2-game playoff game in the first round of the NHL against the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes goalkeeper Frederik Andersen did not play for more than two weeks, with what the Hurricanes called a “lower body injury”. He remained “the decision on the time of the match”, said coach Rod Brind’Amour, although the journalists concluded that the reserve Antti Raanta will play after he appears in the fold on the morning skating. Raanta came out during the first period that night after the collision. Brind’Amour then revealed that Raanta had an “upper body injury” and gave no insight into when he could play again.

Covering up player injuries during the NHL playoffs has become a strange and often comical tradition over the years, as much a part of the hockey spring as the beard of the playoffs and handshakes after the series. Coaches describe all illnesses in hemispherical terms, and decisions about player status arrive at “game time” with extreme frequency.

In recent years, the NHL’s opaque view of injuries has been thrown in a different light – or, perhaps, kept in another shadow of darkness. With the full efforts of sports leagues to profit from legalized sports betting, the NHL’s covert approach to detecting injuries has made it outstanding. While other leagues keep strict rules and punish teams that don’t follow the rules, NHL coaches continue to discuss injuries only in the most obscure terms, and the league lacks a mechanism that forces teams to detect injuries.

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The lack of transparency means that fans who have been tacitly or explicitly encouraged by the NHL to gamble on his games often work without the most basic knowledge: Who plays? What is even more worrying is that it allows for the possibility that some bookmakers may gain access to information that the public does not have, turning the market in favor of insiders. In the darkest scenario, this could encourage players or employees to share injury status with bookmakers for personal gain.

“The NHL is on the island when it comes to injuries,” said Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook vice president Jay Kornegay. “Being a bookmaker, transparency is key. Either no one knows or everyone knows. We get into awkward situations where only a select few know the true status of the injury. ”

The NHL has entered new territory with betting. The league and individual franchises have established partnerships with a number of online sports bookmakers. In Washington, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis announced the opening of a sports betting facility within the Capital One Arena, the first of its kind in the country. But the league has no plans to adjust the way it allows teams to hide injuries from the public, so they have continued a practice that prevents opposing coaches from planning a game with complete information and opposing players from targeting vulnerable body parts.

“So far, our long-standing policy has not proved problematic,” NHL spokesman John Dellapina said in an email. “Policy changes are not currently being considered.”

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The practice has long troubled bookmakers, who rely on information to be shared publicly and send other leagues directly to them. The NFL’s comprehensive injury detection policy was adopted with the goal of creating a level playing field for bettors, although some NFL coaches remain deliberately vague.

In a rare concession, the Capitals knocked out striker Tom Wilson for the 3rd game of their series against the Florida Panthers on the morning of the game. In other sports, that would be expected. During the first round of the playoffs, the NBA fined the Phoenix Suns $ 25,000 for “previously failing to accurately and timely reveal the participation status of keeper Devin Booker.” Last weekend, the NBA fined the Philadelphia Sixers $ 50,000 for failing to change Joel Embiid’s mark from “out” fast enough before he played Game 3 against the Miami Heat.

Even in an age of widespread gambling, from which the NHL reaped financial benefits, the NHL has stuck to its approach. However, in a rapidly evolving climate, some sports betting operators expect this to change.

“We’d like them to be a little more transparent, and we hope to make that happen,” said DraftKings ’director of racing and sports betting operations, Johnny Avello, a long-time bookmaker in Las Vegas. “If you go back a few years, the NHL didn’t want to have anything to do with us sports betting operators. Now we have certainly bridged that gap a bit. I’m looking for things to improve on that. It would be nice if the league sent us those things. “

The NHL provides bettors with data on injuries during games, Avello said, so bookmakers can create queues for in-game bets. But even that reveals only when a player leaves the ice and whether he returns to the shift, not the extent or type of injury or how long it can take him away.

Bookmakers have learned over the years that even if teams successfully hide injuries from the public and their opponents, someone he can still find out. If Kornegay takes a bet from a reputable gambler on a game involving a player of unknown status, Kornegay might assume that the gambler has learned of the player’s health and will adjust the line accordingly.

“If a respected player bets on the line – it doesn’t matter which sport – and there is a player who might be questioned if he bets on one side or the other, it sends us a red flag that he probably bet based on the latest injury news.” said Kornegay. “I do not know how it came to them. But it’s a game we play every day with some of the more educated players. “

Some bettors, Kornegay said, bet solely on the basis of observed edges in information. Sometimes Kornegay staff will check Twitter after certain bettors bet to see if they missed an injury news update. When it comes to hockey, these updates are rare.

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“That’s what we have to deal with being bookmakers,” Kornegay said. “The NHL is a little more frustrating because you just can’t find out the information. We have to really base that on the kind of game we see coming in that game. We may not know until the scratches are announced that a particular player is out. But if we have already taken the so-called harsh action against this guy who plays, we have a pretty good idea that the star will not play or could be very limited. “

Bookmakers are not the only parties to suffer. The bookmaker acts as a market. If most bookmakers are in the dark because of an injury, but a select few know about it, the public faces a flaw.

“It would be nice if everyone out there knew who was playing so they could make a rational decision about who to bet on,” Avello said.

Leonsis has evangelized the legalization of sports betting for years, repeatedly declaring it a form of data-driven entertainment that allows fans to profit from their knowledge. “Gambling is no different than betting on stocks on Wall Street, is it?” Leonsis once said. “People who work best are the most informed.”

But NHL politics and league culture encourage teams to withhold exactly the information that matters most to those fans. Leonsis declined to comment on the story through a Monumental Sports spokeswoman.

The only advantage of NHL policy, Kornegay said, is that only the absence of a major star would affect the line in a single hockey game. The absence of players like Nathan MacKinnon of Colorado or Connor McDavid of Edmonton could move the line by 30 cents per bet on the dollar, Kornegay said, but even that fades in impact when the quarterback star is not in the NFL. The star goalkeeper can influence the goal line – a bet on the number of goals scored – by half a goal.

For days, bookmakers had to speculate that Washington would be affected by Wilson’s injury. After leaving the ice in the first period of the first game against the Florida Panthers, the Capitals only revealed that he was “assessed” with a “lower body injury” and would be a “decision during the game”. He stayed from day to day for six days since.

“We still don’t know much about it,” Avello said. “I will not hold a gun to their head and say they should give it to us. I hope that in time this relationship will strengthen and that we will be able to get the information we need. ”

About ten years ago, Avello said, he invited leaders of all major sports leagues, including the NHL, to Las Vegas to see how the bookmaker works. He believed they left with the understanding that transparency helps the integrity of both gambling and the games themselves. He believes the NHL will start revealing injuries in a few years. But for now, it’s still a league where tradition is slowly fading.

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