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Ryan Whitney's Injury And The Edmonton Media

Silence is golden
But my eyes still see.
Silence is golden (golden)
But my eyes still see.

--"Silence Is Golden", The Four Seasons

Ryan Whitney returned to the lineup on November 25th after four weeks of rest and rehab for a knee injury suffered against Vancouver on October 25th. From his first shift against Minnesota, it was obvious that Whitney wasn't healthy. While Whitney was never in the class of Paul Coffey, he's always been a superior skater. In the 13 games after his return, he movements suggested that he was injured -- and he was.

I tweeted at every Edmonton MSM member and asked them to inquire as to the status of Whitney's health. Regular readers know I asked about Whitney's health in every game thread and in each of my post-game articles.

I wasn't the only person wondering what was going on. Woodguy, a frequent commenter throughout the 'Sphere asked Whitney himself, via Twitter, about his health. Whitney blocked him on Twitter:

I didn’t think I was chirping him, just wondering why he can’t crossover his skates when he turns to the left.
He was pumping his right foot on left turns instead of crossing over in almost all instances that I saw.

It was obvious to damn near everyone that he was hurt, but the Edmonton media was mum. After watching Whitney unable to move laterally or accelerate for six straight games, and after watching a great breakout defenseman reduced to throwing the puck weakly around the boards rather than breaking out, I had seen enough.

In my postgame after the Oilers' loss to the Calgary Flames on December 4th, I knocked the mainstream media in Edmonton:

The Edmonton sports media is never one to cross the Oilers' organization, but they are collectively falling down on the job with regards to Ryan Whitney. He's not been able to skate since his first game back and no one is asking about it. One of the team's radio monkeys threw out some conditioning excuse, but anyone who has watched Whitney get beat in every way imaginable on the ice knows that he's injured. He's physically unable to move right now. So what does the media do? They do what the Edmonton media always does - nothing. Great work, people.

Surprisingly enough, I received two e-mail responses, both from Edmonton MSM members, both unhappy with my decision to call them out. The first outright admitted to Whitney's issues:

"Believe me, we know (or at least I do) that he's struggling. I prefer to cut him some slack for awhile (no training camp, no exhibition games, hardly any league games)...I will get around to pointing out how he's playing if this continues much longer...

It's convenient to dump on people from where you're living; we're going into the dressing room every day, actually talking to players..."

There's so much to fisk here that I'm not sure where to start. So the media knew he was struggling, but gave him slack because they had to face him in the locker room. The media thought it would be a good idea to "get around to" asking/writing about it at some point later. The MSM (at least in Edmonton) holds a monopoly on player access, and they regularly tout that access. Yet when the access should prove valuable to the consumers of their product, the media pulled the chute because they are "going into the dressing room every day."

I responded that I wasn't questioning Whitney's effort or his heart, but that it was obvious he was physically unable to move on the ice, yet no one said "boo" about it. I also pointed out that the media had no issues asking Ales Hemsky about the condition of his shoulder just days earlier.

A team with a history of sending injured players onto the ice was either doing it again, or allowing an injured player to make the decision to play, and this was a story that they would get around to at some point?

The second response was less cordial, though it admitted that yes, the media knew that Whitney was hurt, and no, they weren't going to ask or write about it.

"...If you had to stand face to face to him, you couldn't ask any of those questions. No one is going to talk about this and rightfully so. If you knew what he was going through just to get on the ice, you'd lay off of him."

Once again, the same MSM that parrots access as their trump card fears the players they have access to, and they fear them to such a level that they can't ask about an injury. Unless the player is Ales Hemsky, of course.

Shortly after those exchanges, rather than write about the mobility and injury issues, the Journal ran "Oilers’ Ryan Whitney improves one game at a time", a tribute to the hard work and hard feelings of Ryan Whitney. Not a single quote, nor a single question about his health.

It wasn't until December 19th that someone in the MSM finally broke their silence on Whitney's injury. Robin Brownlee published a story at OilersNation in which he detailed Whitney's struggles with recovery from his ankle surgery and pain in that ankle. From that article:

"You want to feel comfortable out there. It's tough to feel comfortable when you're in pain. There's obviously a thought process you've got to have in getting by that."

Good on Brownlee for getting over the awful fear of looking a player in the eye and asking honest questions, but his statement "There's obviously a big difference between playing with injury and playing with pain." is terribly misguided. Pain is the most basic and obvious sign of an injury. Playing through some amount of pain is a necessity in hockey, without that ability, hundreds of players would be on IR at any one time. But playing through the pain of an injury that won't worsen with use is far different than attempting to play through the pain of an injury so debilitating that it impairs a player's on-ice ability. If the pain is so great that the player can no longer move normally, they shouldn't be on the ice. It was clear to many that Whitney was not moving normally.

Whitney is still injured and clearly not healthy enough to play the game effectively. That he came back early might be noble in the eyes of the hockey world, but a player can't play the "noble warrior" through surgery and recovery.

The truth behind the entire situation was finally revealed yesterday when the Oilers tweeted


Whitney finally admitted what any attentive fan could see and what the Edmonton MSM already knew but wouldn't report. Like so many Oilers before him, he rushed back to the ice to the detriment of the team and his own health. Whitney wouldn't admit it to himself, the Oilers wouldn't shut him down, and the media was content to remain complicit in the whole charade.