SBD/March 17, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NHL Implemented New Concussion Protocol In Last Night's Games

NHL last night began implementing its new concussion protocol
Predators GM David Poile yesterday said that the NHL implemented its "new concussion protocol in NHL games starting" last night, according to Scott Burnside of ESPN.com. Speaking at the conclusion of the NHL GM meetings, Poile "described the new protocol that will include a 15-minute break from the game in the dressing room for a player who may have suffered a concussion during play." The protocol is "aimed at keeping players who might have suffered a concussion from doing further damage by continuing to play." Poile acknowledged that players' symptoms "may arise after 15 minutes, but this is an important start." NHL Senior Exec VP/Hockey Operations Colin Campbell noted that the league was "still working out some details on the mechanics of the proposal." Meanwhile, other issues discussed by the GMs before the conclusion of their meetings yesterday "included expanding the role of video play at some point in the future." Video replay currently "applies only to whether a goal is legal or not," but there is "some appetite for looking at other issues like whether a puck hit the mesh above the glass but play wasn't whistled dead and a goal was scored on the ensuing play." Burnside noted it is "believed the issue will be discussed again at the June GMs meetings during the Stanley Cup final" (ESPN.com, 3/16). In Toronto, Damien Cox reports the final day of the meetings was "largely about rules for the shootout ... and potential ways for the league to expand its video review system, possibly including a coach's challenge." There "was also discussion about miscellaneous topics," but the "elephant in the room continued to be head shots and concussions" (TORONTO STAR, 3/17).

COMPLICATION OF PROTOCOL: Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said that he "believes only one team travels with a team physician during the regular season," which means that under the league's new protocol away teams' players would be "examined by the home-team doctor, the opponent." The concern is that an "opponent's employee is making personnel decision for another team." Yzerman: "That's something we have to consider." However, he added, "These doctors are professionals. I trust their integrity. Until it becomes an issue, I'm going to give the process the opportunity to work." Yzerman did note traveling with a team physician is "something we're definitely going to discuss." Yzerman: "These doctors also have day jobs. It would be tough for them to go on a seven- or eight-day road trip" (TAMPABAY.com, 3/16).

GMS SPEAK OUT: In Pittsburgh, Shelly Anderson reports Penguins GM Ray Shero yesterday "made it clear his support of what he calls 'zero tolerance' for hits to the head was not formed because of the concussion that has sidelined" Penguins C Sidney Crosby for 10 weeks. Shero: "People think since January my view has changed. That's not the case. It's probably changed over the last year and a half." Shero is "hopeful that more GMs will gravitate toward zero tolerance on hits to the head." Shero: "Some guys might be on the fence, and some guys might never change their stance because that's the way they believe the game should be played. I think we all respect each others' opinion" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/17). Shero acknowledged a ban on head hits would bring about an NHL "with less hitting, though not one without hitting" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 3/17). More Shero: "I'd like to see how the game is going to be played with the tightening of the rules -- maybe next March we have a different stance on things." Hurricanes President & GM Jim Rutherford added, "Let's see what this step does now to maybe limit a lot of these hits that we've seen." Sabres GM Darcy Regier said that he "was 'optimistic' that next year more of his colleagues would want to outlaw all head contact" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/17). Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk, who has been named to a committee to study safety issues, said, "We all want to make the game better and safer, and we're going to do that. But it is a process. We're just not seeing the effects of the rule changes that were made back in 2005, and we're seeing that the game has more speed and the collisions are more intense. So, we have to adjust, but the adjustments take time" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/17).

Clutterbuck fears NHL may take physical
aspect out of the game with new rules
PLAYER REAX
: Wild RW Cal Clutterbuck said he would "just hate to see" the league "take the physical aspect out of the game by making new rules every year." Clutterbuck: "Concussions are going to happen. ... If guys started going to the dressing room every time they got hit in the head, there'd be five guys in the dressing room at one time" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 3/17). But Lightning C Steven Stamkos said, "We need to make a change because this year we thought we were going to prevent it at the beginning of the year with some of the changes. But it's been worse. It's scary" (TAMPABAY.com, 3/16).

TOO REACTIVE? The GLOBE & MAIL's Roy MacGregor writes the NHL's GMs on head hits are "indeed going slowly, and there is undeniable support for caution, but there is also a sense that the sands have shifted in the league as much as along the beach just a few steps from where they met." NHL VP/Hockey & Business Development Brendan Shanahan said the fear is "about being too reactive and having to adjust constantly" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/17). In Ft. Lauderdale, Mike Berardino wrote, "It's clear to me the league is walking a fine line. Reducing the number of serious head injuries/concussions is something it clearly wants to do, but not at the expense of the sort of hard-hitting action its fans have come to expect" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 3/16). But in Pittsburgh, Joe Starkey writes the GMs wound up "whiffing on the equivalent of an open net by refusing to recommend a full ban on head shots in a league where 1 in 10 players has been concussed this season." Starkey: "This was their chance" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 3/17).
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