Concussion talk at NHL meetings
palm beach, fla.» Wayne Gretzky applauded the use of centralized concussion spotters as part of the NHL’s effort to better protect its players.
“When I played, one of my kids asked me if I ever got a concussion. I can honestly tell you I don’t even know,” said Gretzky, who was representing the Edmonton Oilers as a partner and vice chairman. “Because in those days they’d say, ‘Take two aspirin tonight; tomorrow you’re going to skate for an hour and we’re going to sweat it out of you.’ That’s what we did.”
Gretzky spoke Friday as NHL team owners and the league’s Board of Governors wrapped up two days of meetings. It was Gretzky’s first board meeting since leaving the Arizona Coyotes in 2009.
The NHL this season began using concussion spotters located at a central location, watching on television, to help decide if a player should be pulled out of a game because of a potential head injury. The NHL hasn’t released details or results from the first two months of the season, though players have generally supported the move even as a class-action lawsuit is pending against the league over its handling of injured players.
“We have so much more knowledge now from the doctor side of things, from the trainers, from the players themselves, and yet there’s so much more to learn about it,” Gretzky said. “Is everybody perfectly happy when the best player gets pulled off ? No. But it’s protocol, that’s what the rules are, and you’ve got to live with it.”
Oilers star Connor McDavid recently took issue with being pulled off the ice after he tripped over Minnesota Wild forward Jared Spurgeon’s stick and hit his chin on the ice. McDavid reached up and grabbed his chin, and that reaction was enough for the NHL’s concussion spotter to call for him to be taken off.
“The reason you have the spotter program is for the instances that people are talking about, because players typically, and you go back through the history of this, don’t want to come out of a game,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.