Con­cus­sion talk at NHL meet­ings

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Andy Kent

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.

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