Accidental Collisions Cause Major Rise in NHL Concussions
RALEIGH, N.C. -- There has been a threefold increase in games lost due to concussions suffered through accidental collisions in the NHL this season, an alarming trend commissioner Gary Bettman noted before the NHL SuperSkills competition at RBC Center on Saturday.
"The ideal number of concussions would be zero," Bettman said. "Our objective would be to come as close as possible to get that result without changing the fundamentals of our game. We are doing whatever possible to limit the amount of concussions."
Concussions suffered in fights and through hits delivered to the body where a player's head then strikes the glass, boards or ice have also increased this season. Bettman refused to disclose the specific numbers.
He added that the number of concussions from blindside hits to the head was down, largely due to the rule implemented last March that barred such collisions. Hits to the head deemed legal under NHL rules have also resulted in fewer man games lost, according to Bettman.
The All-Star weekend lacks arguably its biggest star in Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who was forced to skip Sunday's game as he recovers from a concussion likely suffered in a collision with Washington Capitals forward David Steckel in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. Steckel was not penalized either during the game or by the league in the aftermath of that hit.
"As all hockey fans, I'm unhappy with the fact we have players who are not at the All-Star Game because of concussions," Bettman said. "I don't like the fact any players miss game because of concussions."
The league's general managers will meet in March and could propose changes in rules to further protect players.
Bettman also covered franchises in flux, including:
-- Phoenix Coyotes: Bettman said the league has had the right to pursue "other opportunities" in Phoenix, but the NHL isn't doing that yet. Those alternatives could include moving the franchise -- with the Canadian cities of Hamilton, Quebec City or Winnipeg being the likely frontrunners -- although Bettman refused to discuss that possibility.
-- Dallas Stars: Bettman said there are a half dozen interested parties looking to purchase the club from current owner Tom Hicks. The NHL, unlike in the Coyotes' situation, is not in control of the team, according to Bettman.
-- Buffalo Sabres: The NHL's executive committee interviewed Terry Pegula, the Pennsylvania businessman interested in purchasing the team, this weekend. No votes have been taken to approve the sale.
-- Atlanta Thrashers: Representatives for Atlanta Spirit, the name of the ownership group that controls the Thrashers, filed a lawsuit last week against a law firm that it alleges botched a previous attempt to sell the team. Bettman said the filing "was another step in the journey for ownership to sort things out."
-- St. Louis Blues: Dave Checketts, the Blues' principal owner, has sought to find new investors for the club. Bettman said the move "was not unusual."
Bettman said there had been no decisions made on who will host next season's two outdoor games, the Winter Classic and Heritage Classic. He also said there have been no decisions made in terms of where the league will start its regular season.