The dust has settled on its meeting last week, and the bottom line is this: The National Hockey League has still refused to totally ban hits to the head.
The horrific concussions sustained by Sidney Crosby and Max Pacioretty didn’t sway the NHL. Air Canada and Via Rail’s theats to pull their ads didn’t do the trick, either.
Sure, the league had decided to call for stricter enforcement of some current rules to ward against concussions.
NHL general managers at their gathering in Boca Raton, Fla., recommended that rules regarding “boarding” and “charging” be more strictly enforced, according to The New York Times. “Boarding” is when a player throws an opponent into the wall surrounding the rink, while “charging” is when a player makes a deliberate move of more than two steps when bodychecking an opponent.
At the meeting, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that a special committee was being formed to look into the idea of expanding Rule 48, which prohibits hits to the head and blows that aim for the head, to add in more strictures regarding hits to the skull.
The aim, according to The Times, is to put a stop to players being hit in the head when they are vulnerable, and to stop opponents from using too-violent force.
The new committee is headed by Brendan Shanahan, an NHL vice president, and has three members. They are Bob Blake, who is described as Shanahan’s deputy; Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman; and Dallas general manager Joe Nieuwendyk.
The NHL did make one smart move, by instituting a new concussion protocol for players. Those went into effect last week. Now a player suspected of having a concussion while on the ice will be examined immediately by the team doctor. That exam will be conducted in a room away from the rink, and will take at least 15 minutes.
This protocol, according to The Times, “has drawn praise from brain trauma specialists.”
In the aftermath of last week’s meeting, even NHL GMs who supported a complete barring of head checks seemed satisfied that the league is moving in the right direction, according to The Times.
About a half dozen general managers are in favor of a total ban on hits to the head, rules that are in effect in the Ontario Hockey League, for example.
Why not here?