NHL owners have always been reluctant to let their players participate in the Olympics. The reason is obvious — teams have millions of dollars invested in these players and they could easily suffer some sort of injury while competing in the international tournament. At the very least, NHL teams want to know if and when their players get hurt.
Doctors from Team USA’s staff could simply place a phone call to America or Canada to relay injury information, but they choose to be more careful than that. Why? Because the Russians could be spying. According to Frank Fitzpatrick of The Philadelphia Inquirer, injury reports are delivered using texts from “clean phones” that might say something like “3 … MCL … Grade I … 7-day hold.”
There are 149 NHL players here. Each of their teams has a list of numbers that, like the ’3′ in this example, correspond to their players.
Using numbers instead of names and specially issued cellphones wiped clear of all data, (physicians) representing the NHL in Sochi can communicate discreetly.”
This is not a joke. Russia badly wants to win a gold medal in front of its home fans in Sochi, and there has apparently been some concern that they could try to gain an advantage by hacking injury information.
“[The owners] said any kind of personal account or anything with a password could be hacked by the Russians in a minute,” Peter DeLuca, the Flyers’ orthopedic surgeon and one of the NHL’s two medical representatives in Sochi, told Fitzpatrick. “So we left everything home, and they issued us these ‘clean phones.’”
DeLuca’s job in Sochi is to protect the NHL’s investments and not allow a player to play through any type of injury that could be dangerous. As a result of Cold War-type suspicions, he has also had to learn a new language. These are the reasons we love Olympic hockey.
H/T Puck Daddy