NHL Managers Looking for Ways to Deal with Serious Head Injuries

March 12, 2010

NHL general managers are trying to find a way to deal with serious head injuries.

“I think we all care about the safety of our players, first and foremost,” Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. “I think there’s been some hits this year that all of us feel uncomfortable with, so we’re trying to do what’s right, not only for the players but for the game.”

For two days, this was the main topic of discussion at the general managers’ annual meeting in Florida.

Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said stiffer penalties must be handed out to players who repeatedly make hits to the head.

“Clearly, the blindside and the unsuspecting player is what we’re targeting,” said Nieuwendyk, a three-time Stanley Cup champion. “I don’t think we’re trying to reinvent the wheel here — we have a great game. But in light of some of the hits — obviously the David Booth one is kind of the alarming one that everyone took notice of — I think it’s going to be for the good of the game.”

Booth, a left wing for the Florida Panthers, was carted off the ice on a stretcher after an open-ice hit by Flyers captain Mike Richards on Oct. 24. He sustained a concussion and missed 45 games.

“It’s a rough sport, but we’re just trying to take the necessary steps to protect our players without taking hitting out of the game,” Nieuwendyk said.

San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson suggested that the consensus favored supplemental discipline as a way of combating the problem. But he cautioned there was still fine-tuning to be done and it was “premature” to provide a definitive course of action that will follow from these meetings, which end Wednesday.

Any recommendations would be forwarded to the competition committee. Then the general managers would vote on any change before the matter goes to the board of governors.

“If you’re trying to address something that’s a concern to us, it involves both elements to make it be impactful,” Wilson said. “I hope tomorrow we can put something in place to say this is how we’re going to play the game; what’s acceptable, what’s not acceptable.”

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