NHL general managers discuss headshots, expanded video replay
While NHL general managers concluded three days of meetings that focused on curbing blows to the head, the league was scheduling hearings for Boston's Brad Marchand and San Jose's Dany Heatley to determine if they deserve supplemental punishment for delivering blows to the head of opponents.
Marchand elbowed Columbus' R.J. Umberger in the head Tuesday and wasn't penalized. Heatley elbowed Dallas' Steve Ott, drawing an interference penalty.
The beat goes on, apparently. Memo to the NHL Players' Assn.: If you do not deliver a message to your members emphasizing mutual respect and the potential consequences of headshots, no legislation by the league will ever be enough to minimize those concussions that can be avoided.
The good news, if that's the proper term, is that anyone hit in the head from Wednesday onward will benefit from the new concussion protocol adopted during the general managers’ meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. The new guidelines specify that anyone who reports or exhibits concussion symptoms must be removed from the game and examined by a team physician in a "quiet" place, away from the bench. Previously, players could be cleared to return with the approval of a trainer.
That new rule is sensible, though it has drawbacks. First, concussion symptoms aren't always visible or felt right away. Also, visiting teams' players will have to be treated by the home team's physician, and what will happen if that physician is already treating another player?
The Chicago Blackhawks are the only NHL team that travels with a physician, though others may consider bringing their team doctor along.
The first two days of the meetings focused on safety issues, including replacing seamless glass around rinks with Plexiglass, and more severe punishment for charging and boarding infractions that might lead to head injuries. The final day was devoted to other issues, including the possibility of expanding the use of video replay to include offside calls and four-minute high-sticking penalties, and discussing the legality of "spinorama" moves players have used in shootouts. If the puck comes to a stop on a shootout attempt, the play would be whistled dead and be subject to video review.
Other than the concussion protocol, the recommendations made during the meetings must be approved by the league's Board of Governors in June. The granting of a coach's challenge, as used in the NFL, might also be discussed in June.
-- Helene Elliott
Photo: Columbus Blue Jackets' R.J. Umberger (18) and Grant Clitsome, right, and Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand go after a loose puck in the second period against the Boston Bruins at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday, March 15, 2011. Credit: Eric Albrecht / MCT