March 20, 2011
Last week at the GM Meetings in Boca Raton, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the League was implementing a new medical protocol for concussion diagnosis: Any player suspected of having a concussion will have to sit in a nice quiet place for 15 minutes and be examined by a physician before returning to the game.
Dissenting opinions on the new rule popped up immediately, but the GMs didn't really gripe all that much about it during the following days of the meetings. Instead, one bitched about the new regulation anonymously to Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun on Saturday:
"I have no problem treating these things cautiously but this is an overreaction, a knee-jerk reaction," said the GM, insisting at least a third of the GMs agree with him and will make their feelings known to the league.
"We weren't allowed to vote or discuss it. I was in the bar with about 10 other guys afterwards and they were all grumbling about it. I'm not opposed to beefing up the protocol but we know it doesn't take 15 minutes and that's my biggest concern. There's a right way and a wrong way. This is what doctors told the league is best to do but we're the ones to have to put the thing in practice and it doesn't make sense."
Read that last bit again. Or, better yet, here's how Francis summarized that sentiment on Hockey Night in Canada's Hot Stove on Saturday night:
"They think that's an arbitrary number that doesn't make a lot of sense to them." Very next line: "They understand it came from doctors."
There's a reason why we don't go to the general manager's office when feeling chest pain, you know …
Hot Stove (watch it here) did offer one intriguing dissent on the new concussion protocol: Did they even consider what happens when a goalie gets shaken up?
Former goalie and NHLPA executive Glenn Healy believes the new 15-minute-wait protocol either doesn't consider goalkeepers or is simply unfair to teams who see their goalie suffer head injuries.
From HNIC, Healy said:
"They haven't really thought through all of the situations. And I'll give you an example: Let's take a look at goalies. What is a concussion, first off? Here's Jonas Hiller(notes) in the All-Star Game. Is he concussed? I don't know. He played for two games and hasn't played in a month. I guess he was."
"With the protocol, he reaches for his head, trainer Jim Ramsay comes on the ice. He'd have to go to the quiet room for 15 minutes and then decide hey, was he concussed. If this was Stanley Cup, Game 7, game tied 2-2, would you send that player to the room?"
The reaction of Healy and from the GMs is predictable. If it didn't happen now, it would happen after a game in which a healthy player was "taken" from his team via this protocol. And losing a goalie in a critical game for a mandated 15 minutes is a tough one to take.
That said: It's the doctors' suggestion, and if we're all concerned about player safety, well, isn't this an attempt to keep players safe, no matter what position he plays?
Healy's other mantra last night was that "it doesn't address the real issue" of concussions, which is certainly up for debate. The more "we have no idea how to curb concussions" we get from very smart hockey people, the more diagnosis and rehabilitation come to the forefront. It's like the war on drugs: Prevention seems fruitless, so the focus goes to rehab.