PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – NHL commissioner Gary Bettman declined to respond to media questions about a lawsuit by the family of deceased NHL defenseman Steve Montador.
“We’re not litigating publicly,” Bettman said following the second day of the league's Board of Governors meetings.
The last time Bettman received a question about Montador in a media setting it was during the Western Conference Final. It was shortly after it was announced Montador was suffering from CTE, a degenerative brain disease linked to head injuries.
“From a medical science standpoint, there is no evidence yet that one necessarily leads to the other,” Bettman said last May on head injuries leading to CTE. “I know there are a lot of theories, but if you ask people who study it, they tell you there is no statistical correlation that can definitively make that conclusion.”
Montador’s family is claiming the NHL failed to provide him with the latest research on head injuries. Montador was found dead in his home last February.
"The NHL continues to ignore the lasting problems caused by multiple head traumas suffered by its players," Montador’s father, Paul, said in a statement. "Tragedies like that of my son Steven will continue until the problem is addressed. The NHL knows, but denies, that years of repeated head injuries cause long-term brain problems.”
Bettman was asked about the league’s protocol for head injuries, which now includes concussion spotters.
“I think there is no question that the concussion protocol is working. The spotter program as we refined it is working,” Bettman said. “The Board was showed a couple of videos, one was what we use to educate the players on concussions and two what we use to educate the spotters. We're proactive in dealing with this issue and I think the Board was very comfortable with what they were hearing."
Fewer suspensions and fights: Bettman said fighting was at the “lowest level in the history of the game” but didn’t believe the league needed to change its rules to add suspensions for fighting.
“The fact of the matter is the rules of the game in place,” Bettman said. “That’s the penalty that’s imposed for fighting that we have on the books. If in fact we want to change that then we need a rule change."
Bettman also said there is one fewer suspension at this point this season, as opposed to last year. Though the suspension game total is up based on Raffi Torres’ 41-game suspension earlier in the year.
International competition: The league’s Board of Governors did not discuss Olympic involvement for the next two Games – in Pyeongchang in 2018 or Beijing in 2022. Instead the focus was on the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which will take place in Toronto next September.
“We did not talk about the Olympics this time around,” Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said.
LA All-Star Game?: Los Angeles Kings president of business operations Luc Robitaille said his team did not further any sort of discussion on the 2017 NHL All-Star Game. Over a week ago, there was reported interest from the Kings on hosting the 2017 game for their 50th anniversary season.
“It’s something we’ve talked to the league about, but it wasn’t brought up, no not yet,” Robitaille said to Puck Daddy. “There are so many events going on right now with the league and you have to make sure that everything is done right. We threw our name in there and we’re kind of in a 'sit-and-wait' holding pattern.”
Shanahan mum on Bernier: When asked about struggling goaltender Jonathan Bernier, Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said to talk with the team’s coach and general manager.
“I think that’s a better question for Lou (Lamoriello) and Mike (Babcock). I think it’s one of the reasons I hired them is that they’re very good at those things. There I go,” Shanahan said.
The Maple Leafs recently assigned Bernier to the American Hockey League for a conditioning stint.
Bernier is in the first season of a two-year $8.3 million contract.
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