SBD/March 11, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Canadiens Owner, Others Urge NHL To Take Action On Player Safety

Globe & Mail devotes entire front page to news surrounding controversial hit
Two days after a hit by Bruins D Zdeno Chara sent Canadiens LW Max Pacioretty to the hospital, Canadiens ownership "struck out at the league’s decision not to suspend Chara, the NHL Players Association vowed to inspect the league’s arenas for safety, the police said they are investigating, and the Prime Minister of Canada weighed in on the issue for good measure," according to Gordon & Bradshaw of the GLOBE & MAIL. Canadiens Owner Geoff Molson on Thursday sent a letter to fans in which he used "uncharacteristically blunt language to express the organization’s disgust with the NHL’s decision not to suspend" Chara. Molson termed the NHL’s ruling, which found that Chara’s "shove of Pacioretty into a stanchion between the players' benches justified no further sanction," a "hard blow for both the players and fans of the Montreal Canadiens." Molson: "It was one which shook the faith that we, as a community, have in this sport that we hold in such high regard." He added, "Our organization believes that the players’ safety in hockey has become a major concern, and that this situation has reached a point of urgency" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/11). Molson in the letter said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "has agreed to make this issue a priority" at next week's GM meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. (Montreal GAZETTE, 3/11). Molson added, "I am asking for the support of the 29 other NHL owners, to address urgently this safety issue. And I am willing to play a leadership role in coordinating this group effort" (Montreal GAZETTE, 3/11).

UNION'S TAKE: NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said that "all sides should separate the noise from what needs to be done to make the game safer for its participants." Fehr: "Do people think things are actually more dangerous than they were a few years ago? Or is it the increased scrutiny (on head hits) which is causing us to hear a lot more about it?" Fehr said that "preliminary inquiries indicated the design of the glass and the posts around the players’ benches at the Bell Centre in Montreal may have played a role in Pacioretty’s injuries." Fehr: "It has been suggested to me that the location where this took place on the ice may have contributed to it, but I don’t know that." He said that the NHLPA is "examining all aspects of the overall issue of hits to the head and concussions." But he added that the union "will not be asking the general managers, whose annual meetings next week in Florida are expected to be devoted to this issue, to consider anything in particular" (David Shoalts, GLOBE & MAIL, 3/11). In L.A., Helene Elliott writes, "If the union is so concerned with workplace safety, it must go beyond measuring padding and getting rid of seamless glass and implore players to stop hitting one another in the head" (L.A. TIMES, 3/11). ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun wrote Fehr "needs to show leadership on this issue. He's been way too quiet" (ESPN.com, 3/10).

TIME TO TAKE ACTION: The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair writes, "This certainly seems like hockey’s steroid moment, doesn’t it? That time when other people hold a mirror up to the face of the game and simply say enough with the excuses, it’s time to change" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/11). A GLOBE & MAIL editorial is written under the header, "NHL Risking Its Integrity By Turning A Blind Eye." The editorial: "The integrity of the game is at stake. It cannot be separated from the safety of the players. Astonishingly, Gary Bettman ... responded on Thursday by aiming a head shot at Air Canada, suggesting teams could turn to another airline for charter flights." The "integrity of the game is in question; the league hasn't shown it has an answer" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/11). In Toronto, Damien Cox writes the NHL has been "very, very tardy in coming to grips with this issue" of head hits and is "still plagued by the problem" (TORONTO STAR, 3/11). In Toronto, Cathal Kelly writes, "The NHL sits quietly in its corner of the sporting market, hoping for a period of relative calm, but unwilling to do anything drastic that might ensure that" (TORONTO STAR, 3/11). In Vancouver, Cam Cole wonders, "How many consecutive nights do the highlight shows have to dwell on the head injury du jour before the league gets it?" (VANCOUVER SUN, 3/11).
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