LCS: Guide to Hockey

Capital Injury Syndrome

by Howard Fienberg, Correspondent
Issue 117, April 7, 1999

Colorado and Buffalo are stricken with fear. Philadelphia knows it is infected, and Pittsburgh suspects it. I’m talking about the most dreaded of contagious illnesses - Capital Injury Syndrome (CIS). You know the one - strokes of luck so nasty they nearly kill half your players.

In the case of the original agent, the Washington Capitals were decimated early and often by injuries this season, destroying all hope of a return to the Cup Finals - a return to respectability would feel just fine now. Generous at heart, GM George McPhee shared his team’s CIS with the rest of the league at the trading deadline. So far, Colorado and Buffalo have not suffered outbreaks, but Philadelphia has been devastated, losing its top guns to various injuries of different cause. And Pittsburgh coach Kevin Constantine recently declared a state of war, insisting that the Washington Capitals were engaged in “biochemical terrorism” against his squad, turning the Penguin blueline into... well, the metaphor escapes me. Suffice it to say, there aren’t enough warm bodies to melt an ice cube.

The scourge of CIS has ravaged the whole NHL this season. Pavel Bure is rumored to have picked it up on the plane to Miami, spreading it to the rest of the lowly Panthers. Before Coach Terry Murray could say “Olegalamb or abitofKvasha” his talent left the ice. For the rest of the season.

But wait a minute. What’s that you say? How could these injuries be related? Well, they’re not, at least not directly. There is no syndrome, no illness. Just a few basic risk factors that the NHL and the players’ association refuse to address. Mainly, when reckless play goes unpenalized and when the ice is like mush. It doesn’t take much to figure out that, while these are not necessarily the direct causes, they certainly bear much of the blame.

The referees choke on their whistles so often they can hardly breathe. That lack of oxygen to the brain may explain why they don’t think to call penalties on so many dangerous plays.

And consider how many times you watched a game recently and felt that the boys were skating on molasses. While it is sometimes due to a player being naturally slow, even he is rarely helped by thin, crotchety ice recently lain atop some creaky basketball flooring. Outside of Edmonton, the ice is putrid, and all it takes is one mis-step for a player to snap a hamstring, pull a groin, or trip and smash his face into the crossbar. It is not infectious, though it is epidemic.

There is no Capital Injury Syndrome. Nothing to fear from any infectious disease. But the NHL sure got worry. Its got slush for ice surface and mush for brains. Let’s just hope THAT is not infectious.

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