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Jets coach Paul Maurice says protecting players more important than disclosing injuries for betting purposes

Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice had some interesting thoughts Friday when asked about the potential impact of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows individual states to legalize betting on sports.

Information on injured players can have an impact on odds, and the NFL provides a weekly injury report for every team. The NHL has long allowed its teams to be vague about injuries and withhold that information, usually classifying injuries as upper body or lower body. That’s an issue that could present a problem if the NHL decides to pursue a piece of the gambling pie.

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“I understand, a little bit, the idea if you’re making odds you’d have a far better opportunity to make better odds if you knew exactly the lineups. Or at least you would feel that you would,” Maurice said as his team prepared for Game 4 of the Western Conference finals Friday night against the Vegas Golden Knights. “But, and I’ve used this analogy before, any team at this point in the year has got a list of guys in the room. And you know it because the series ends and they always come out and say, ‘OK, these four guys are getting surgery...’

“The game of hockey, one of the things that’s outstanding, and yes, our doctors are very involved and they have final say on everything, for sure. But a big chunk of your team is dealing with something. Robbie DiMaio played with cracked ribs. I’ve had a long list of guys play with broken bones. Nobody needs to know that. Why a guy comes out of the lineup, whether it’s an injury, the coach’s decision, whatever, that directly affects the health of a player, in my opinion.”

Knowing the nature and location of an injury would encourage opposing players to target that part of the body when the injured player returns, Maurice said, an argument that has long been used by NHL and club executives for not releasing such information. “This is a full-contact, high-speed, physical game. If you know a guy’s dealing with something, that maybe he’s going to turn that puck over a little quicker, maybe you’re on him,” Maurice said.

He also said he doesn’t like to confirm whether a specific player is playing, information that bettors likely would want to know, adding that his responsibility is to his player and not to a bettor. But what if the NHL made disclosure mandatory?

“The question would become how exactly would you implement that. They would have full access to our medical records — that’s one way,” Maurice said. “So your medical records are going to get fairly bland. He’s got a malaise. There’ll be six guys with a malaise. If you’re going to do that and it’s a rule, you’re going to have to have a way to monitor it. I don’t know the answer to all of it. All I know is I have a responsibility to protect my players, and I’m going to do that.”

Separately, Jets forward Blake Wheeler, who was the victim of Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s stealthy ear tickling during Game 3, said he wasn’t immediately aware of what had happened and didn’t know for sure until he saw video of the incident the next morning. “I didn’t clean my ears that day, so the joke’s on him,” Wheeler said. “This league’s getting weird. It doesn’t bother me. I thought it was funny.”

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