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NHL GENERAL MANAGERS GATHER IN FLORIDA TO EXAMINE THE SPORT

The NHL's general managers will find themselves in the eye of the storm on Florida's Atlantic coast this week.

With the outcry over concussions having grown to a fever pitch, the GMs will gather for their annual meetings from Monday to Wednesday under some pressure to deliver a message about the state of the game.

They've already spent considerable time grappling with concussions and illegal hits -- developing Rule 48 outlawing blindside head hits at these meetings a year ago -- and won't necessarily conclude this session with any new measures to propose.

If anything, the divide between those involved in the sport and those on the outside will likely be highlighted during the meetings in Boca Raton, Fla.

In the wake of the devastating head and neck injury suffered by Montreal's Max Pacioretty on Tuesday, calls for more safety in the NHL came from all corners -- everyone from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to league sponsor Air Canada to Canadiens owner Geoff Molson weighed in.

However, it was much more difficult to detect a desire for change from those who have spent a lifetime in the game.

"Every time there's an injury, we're running around trying to address the specific injury," Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said over the weekend. "I think we've done a pretty good job of eliminating head shots but it doesn't matter what the rules are -- there's still going to be these situations. I wish everybody would stop and think.

"We're playing a contact sport, people are going to get hurt."

One of the toughest jobs for the GMs will be defining the exact terms of the conversation.

If anything, the biggest issue to come from Zdeno Chara's hit on Pacioretty is one of arena safety. It's likely the Canadiens forward would have suffered no injury at all had he not smacked his head on the stanchion between players' benches at the Bell Centre.

The NHL's hockey operations has closely examined every play that resulted in a concussion this season and found that an alarming number have been caused by accidental or inadvertent situations -- plays that are not easily legislated out of the game.

"It's easy to say 'the league needs to do x, y and z on concussions' (but) it's not that simple," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said last month at the all-star game. "Changing a rule which doesn't address what's actually causing the concussions may not be the right thing to do, changing equipment may not necessarily be the right thing to do.

"We spend a lot of effort on this subject, we know it's important."

The importance of the issue was underscored with recent findings by Boston University that former enforcer Bob Probert suffered from the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Probert died of a heart attack last July at age 45.

In many ways, it's been the year of the concussion in the NHL.

The number of players affected by the injury are up this season -- Bettman refused to disclose by how much -- and the victims include Sidney Crosby, the league's most marketable player who was off to the finest start of his career when he was struck down on Jan. 5. Crosby still sits 11th overall in league scoring despite not skating at all since.

One option the GMs will discuss is potentially penalizing every hit where the principal point of contact is the head, not just those that come from the blind side. Interestingly, the NHL Players' Association asked for that exact penalty when it was given the opportunity to speak at these meetings in 2009.

During that session, former NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly and director of player affairs Glenn Healy told the GMs that more than 80 per cent of players were in favour of that penalty.

"There were crickets in the room," Healy recalled. "That certainly grabbed absolutely no traction."

The NHLPA wasn't extended an invitation this week.

Players will still have an opportunity to have their opinion heard because any rule proposals from the GMs must be approved by the competition committee. That group includes five players, five managers and Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider.

Hockey is the ultimate cause and effect sport as every rule change seems to have unintended consequences. The GMs were widely applauded after opening up the game coming out of the lockout by eliminating obstruction and allowing long stretch passes through the neutral zone -- changes some are now citing as a major reason why the sport has become more dangerous because it is too fast.

It will be impossible to please everybody.

Even though the public outcry seems to be louder than ever following Pacioretty's injury, many inside the game are hoping the GMs avoid the temptation to overreact.

"I think we're addressing these things but there's knee-jerk reactions all over the place now because I believe the Internet and how that can fan the fire," said Wilson. "We've just got to step back and realize I think our games have been great. We're focused all on the wrong things at times. There are going to be injuries, unfortunately.

"I could trip you, you slide into the net on a breakaway and you break your collar bone off a post. Should I be suspended for tripping you on a breakaway?

"You've got to watch where we're going here."

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What needs to be discussed openly at this meeting (besides arena safety) is the current system of discipline that the league uses.

Having the father of a Bruin player influencing sentencing on Boston players is totally suspect and a farce,,especially after his neutrality was questioned with last years e-mail scandal. Its amplified even further with the knowledge that the Chairman of the board of governors is the owner of the Bruins. Every decision the League makes based on this scenerio is open to suspicion.

The solution is simple. Put in place a neutral panel that will deal with ALL cases and not the fractured system now in place,, where Murphy deals with Bruins and Campbell the rest of the League. The fact those two work in the same office is a joke in itself.

Players need to know that discipline will be doled out fairly and consistently if they want to put a dent in these flagrant fouls. If a player gets 3 games for an infraction, then there better damn well be 3 games to the guy from another team who inflicts a similar infraction regardless of star status or whose your father.

One last point. FIRE BETTMAN.

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What needs to be discussed openly at this meeting (besides arena safety) is the current system of discipline that the league uses.

Along with consistency throughout all 30 teams.

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What needs to be discussed openly at this meeting (besides arena safety) is the current system of discipline that the league uses.

Having the father of a Bruin player influencing sentencing on Boston players is totally suspect and a farce,,especially after his neutrality was questioned with last years e-mail scandal. Its amplified even further with the knowledge that the Chairman of the board of governors is the owner of the Bruins. Every decision the League makes based on this scenerio is open to suspicion.

The solution is simple. Put in place a neutral panel that will deal with ALL cases and not the fractured system now in place,, where Murphy deals with Bruins and Campbell the rest of the League. The fact those two work in the same office is a joke in itself.

Players need to know that discipline will be doled out fairly and consistently if they want to put a dent in these flagrant fouls. If a player gets 3 games for an infraction, then there better damn well be 3 games to the guy from another team who inflicts a similar infraction regardless of star status or whose your father.

One last point. FIRE BETTMAN.

It doesn't make sense to me...how he can email around the league and complain that refs were mean to his son...AND STILL STAY ON THE BOARD

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I think i mentioned that in my last sentence before the Bettman shot. ;)

Yes,you certainly did..:P....just stressing that point....really has gotten under my skin all season....I'M SICK OF IT.:angry:

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Many ex-players guests on l'Anti-Chambre throughout the season suggested an independent and anonymous committee to make decisions on supplementary discipline (guys like Damphousse, Lemieux, Ian Laperrière, etc) .

Independant:

It can not be the League's executive because they cannot be impartial as depending on who the player is, it may have an impact on their business agenda. It can not be the NHLPA because they have to see to the best interest of both players.

Anonymous:

Who is a member of that committee should be transparent but when a decision is rendered, it's not by any individual but by 'the discipline committee'. This removes the pressure to make the decision go one way or the other.

This suggestion is so simple to implement, why aren't they looking into it? Too fair? too honest? Of course, no solution is perfect but for the most part, the book of rule is adequate, it's how the rules are applied and sanctions given (or not given) that create a lot of the problems we are seeing today. Going with the impartiality of an independent committee and the "jury" approach instead of the "executioner" approach could only make things better.

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What makes this situation reek even more of coverup is the fact that Jacobs ( Bruins owner) as Chairman of the Board of Governors,, is the one that recently negotiated Bettman's 5 year extension as part of his powers. Conflict of interest you say???

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Many ex-players guests on l'Anti-Chambre throughout the season suggested an independent and anonymous committee to make decisions on supplementary discipline (guys like Damphousse, Lemieux, Ian Laperrière, etc) .

Independant:

It can not be the League's executive because they cannot be impartial as depending on who the player is, it may have an impact on their business agenda. It can not be the NHLPA because they have to see to the best interest of both players.

Anonymous:

Who is a member of that committee should be transparent but when a decision is rendered, it's not by any individual but by 'the discipline committee'. This removes the pressure to make the decision go one way or the other.

This suggestion is so simple to implement, why aren't they looking into it? Too fair? too honest? Of course, no solution is perfect but for the most part, the book of rule is adequate, it's how the rules are applied and sanctions given (or not given) that create a lot of the problems we are seeing today. Going with the impartiality of an independent committee and the "jury" approach instead of the "executioner" approach could only make things better.

Imagine yourself as the owner of a sports franchise. Now, not only are you the owner of the sports franchise, but also are the "leader" of the group that "hold the keys" to who is Commissioner, etc. Your goal is to get your franchise the sport's championship and make a bunch of dough in the process. Which one would you rather have, assuming that you are acting in your team's self-interest? Have a system you can manipulate in your favor or let a bunch of independent judges "get in the way" of the oligarchy?

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Imagine yourself as the owner of a sports franchise. Now, not only are you the owner of the sports franchise, but also are the "leader" of the group that "hold the keys" to who is Commissioner, etc. Your goal is to get your franchise the sport's championship and make a bunch of dough in the process. Which one would you rather have, assuming that you are acting in your team's self-interest? Have a system you can manipulate in your favor or let a bunch of independent judges "get in the way" of the oligarchy?

I understand that this may be the the main reason why some owners wouldn't want an independent committee but if we (they) stop to think about it, not all of them can be "favored" at the same time. At some point, if you let things go as they are, you wont have a product to put on the ice (re star players all injured for long periods). I fail to see how this is seeing to your club's best interest. Most team owners are successful businessmen, I doubt they got the money they made by being shortsighted.

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I understand that this may be the the main reason why some owners wouldn't want an independent committee but if we (they) stop to think about it, not all of them can be "favored" at the same time. At some point, if you let things go as they are, you wont have a product to put on the ice (re star players all injured for long periods). I fail to see how this is seeing to your club's best interest. Most team owners are successful businessmen, I doubt they got the money they made by being shortsighted.

Right now, there's waaaay too much "pro-Bruin" interests at the top. The Board of Governors' president is pro-Bruin. Bettman doesn't care as long as he's getting the checks and that the Canadian teams don't win a thing. Colin Campbell wants his boy to win, and Mike Murphy has to deal with Campbell on a too frequent basis to act independently, so he's just a figurehead. If Campbell and Jeremy Jacobs weren't in the positions they are now, we'd probably see a more fair league that isn't so pro-Boston. Perhaps if they weren't there, the idea of an independent committee might pop up.

But with Jacobs and Bettman at the top, perish the thought for now. Neither of them wants the league to have any admission that the NHL lacks integrity. The automatic fining of anyone who speaks out against the refs without any questioning is one example of that. Establishing an independent committee? That would be a complete admission that integrity was not in the NHL for who knows how long. The PR damage would be severe for Bettman and his current boss.

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Right now, there's waaaay too much "pro-Bruin" interests at the top. The Board of Governors' president is pro-Bruin. Bettman doesn't care as long as he's getting the checks and that the Canadian teams don't win a thing. Colin Campbell wants his boy to win, and Mike Murphy has to deal with Campbell on a too frequent basis to act independently, so he's just a figurehead. If Campbell and Jeremy Jacobs weren't in the positions they are now, we'd probably see a more fair league that isn't so pro-Boston. Perhaps if they weren't there, the idea of an independent committee might pop up.

But with Jacobs and Bettman at the top, perish the thought for now. Neither of them wants the league to have any admission that the NHL lacks integrity. The automatic fining of anyone who speaks out against the refs without any questioning is one example of that. Establishing an independent committee? That would be a complete admission that integrity was not in the NHL for who knows how long. The PR damage would be severe for Bettman and his current boss.

Having them both in that position really leaves ALL decisions open to scutiny. Its rediculous that the League would put themselves in that situation when its completely avoidable. Are they so blind (arrogant)or is it a case of " we don't care what fan's think".

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Are they so blind (arrogant)

Arrogant comes to mind,as for being so blind,nothing like sticking your heads in the sand. (we see nothing) <_<

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Having them both in that position really leaves ALL decisions open to scutiny. Its rediculous that the League would put themselves in that situation when its completely avoidable. Are they so blind (arrogant)or is it a case of " we don't care what fan's think".

Bettman has shown time and again that this is exactly his stance. He is arrogant and he is not willing to negotiate. On the one hand, that helped get the salary cap in place and make the league more competitive. On the other hand, the league officiating and disciplinary committee have become huge jokes, the league is floundering in the Southern U.S., and most Canadians do not like Bettman or the direction he is taking the NHL. The league needs to become more transparent with the decision-making and they need to start bringing the game back to the fans instead of sucking up to the corporate types in the States and catering to markets where the likes of NASCAR, college sports, and the WWE will not be supplanted.

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Guest olddude

One thing these guys need to consider, is that in Canada there are laws that protect people working here. There is a ton of talk on the internet/news that the police investigation into this is wrong, that it would almost be impossible to charge Chara, etc... I agree that it would be hard to charge Chara, But charging the NHL, is another story.

Here, owners/managers can be held criminally responsible for injuries to workers(players). And given that Max is not the first player to be injured in this manner (see Cherrys video)and that the NHL has not only failed to take action to stop it from happening again, but defends its position of inaction. I think there is a real chance for a successful prosecution in this area, should the police decide to go that route.

If the NHL fails to act on this kind of violence in a meaningful manner at this meeting, then I hope the police consider this action. I think Bettman would look good in stripes.

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NHL GM'S TO FOCUS ON HEAD SHOTS AT FLORIDA MEETINGS

TSN.CA STAFF

3/14/2011 10:41:54 AM

The pressure will be on 30 NHL general managers over the next three days as they take part in their annual meeting at Boca Raton, Florida.

To no one's surprise, head shots will be the biggest topic this week, as the executives try to find ways to reduce the rising number of concussions and head injuries.

The talks are being held against a wide backdrop of controversy over the last few months. Sidney Crosby, the league's premier player and spokesperson, is still out with a concussion and has only begun skating on Monday.

There's also pressure from fans, front offices and corporate Canada to improve in-game safety after Bruins captain Zdeno Chara's hit on Montreal's Max Pacioretty that drove him into a stanchion.

"There's tremendous pressure to at least revisit it (the subject of reducing head injuries in the game)," Sabres general manager Darcy Regier told The Buffalo News over the weekend.

All sorts of ideas will be suggested, ranging from harsher suspensions to an outright ban on head shots.

The NHL introduced Rule No. 48 last year, which says that, "a lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted." A five-minute major penalty is given for violation of the rule, along with potential fines and suspensions.

"I don't think it's an issue that's going to go away," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Sunday. "So I think it's something we're going to have to discuss and find out how we can protect the players. But as much as people are looking for the league to take a stance, I believe the players also have to take a stance."

Follow TSN.ca for news and updates throughout the NHL general managers' meetings.

BETTMAN INTRODUCES PLAN TO CURB CONCUSSIONS AT GM MEETINGS gary0s_69175.jpg

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From Bob McKenzie. on Twitter.

Bettman outlines 5 step plan:

1. Brendan Shanahan working with NHLPA to expedite equipment modifications.

2. Revised concussion protocol. If player is suspected to have had one, must be removed from the bench for assessement in quiet area.

That assessment must be done by a medical doctor, not the team therapist, using standardized SCAT testing.

3. Fines and/or suspensions for clubs and coaches of players/teams that rack up high number of suspensions. No details yet.

4. Safety engineers to make sure all NHL arenas conform to safe standards and to come up with ideas to "soften" environment.

5. Special committee of Shanahan, R Blake, Yzerman, Niuewendyk to continue investigating this issue.

GMs weigh in tomorrow with their thoughts/recommendations.

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From Bob McKenzie. on Twitter.

Problem is that it still says nothing about dishing out bigger suspensions (or any suspensions) to guys who target the head or make dirty plays. It also does nothing to standardize the suspensions given out. I want to make sure that a guy like Ovechkin or Chara or Richards is given the same suspension a guy like Gillies or Avery would get. these guys are all repeat offenders, whether they've been suspended fully or not.

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Bettman's missing the biggest and most important step.

STEP #6 The immediate replacement of Campbell and his side kicks as League disciplinarians,, with a neutral and unbiased panel.

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Head shot protocol to be followed by:

  • decapitation protocol;
  • 'looks like he's dead' protocol; and
  • the 'Mike Richards'" "PK hurt my feelings!! sob!"' protocol

PR consultants' hands (so) obviously all over this one: "get control of the issue", they will tell you. :rolleyes:

And yet, nothing truly constructive.

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Now here's an article i can completely relate to...

http://www.montrealgazette.com/sports/fails+protect+players/4434409/story.html

Thanks for that, HTL.

My only issue is that it comes from the Montreal Gazette, meaning most non-Habs fans will see it as more Montreal whining.

Any sports analyst needs to read this article and refer to it in their columns. Ditto for fans and their water cooler chats.

Just because it's a fast sport, a contact sport, a collision sport, does not mean we have to enable the goonery, thuggery, and sheer disregard for others that is running amok in the NHL.

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