In the March 9 game agaisnt the Tampa By Lightning, Chicago Blackhawks’ center Dave Bolland took an elbow to the head and has missed every game since, with what is suspected to be a concussion.
On Tuesday, NHL general managers decided against recommending a ban on head shots to curb concussions. Instead, they will propose tighter enforcement of rules on charging and boarding.
The general managers also will propose longer suspensions for illegal head hits and repeat offenders.
Following a second day of meetings Tuesday to discuss concussions, general managers also decided against rule revisions that would slow the game.
A rise in head injuries this season, including two recent high-profile cases, put the issue at the top of the GMs’ agenda. But Commissioner Gary Bettman said the group decided a ban on all head shots would be too radical a response.
“By the time the season is over there will be 55,000 hits, and a small percentage are resulting in concussions,” Bettman said. “We want to eliminate concussions, but the view is if we can define a rule that makes sense and doesn’t cause other problems in the game, we’re going to try and do that.”
The GMs may still propose stricter rules on head hits involving a vulnerable player or excessive force, Bettman said. A committee will study the options further and will draft a set of recommendations for the Board of Governors to consider at their June meeting. Blindside hits to the head were banned last year.
The general managers believe stiffer, more aggressive enforcement of boarding and charging violations will reduce the number of legal hits causing head injuries. Nearly half of all concussions this season were caused by legal hits, according to a league study.
“The sense was there were a number of incidents of boarding and charging that, while legal under the current rules, may be the type of hits we can take out of the game, keep the fundamental physicality of the game and reduce injuries,” Bettman said.
Recommendations from the general managers will be submitted to the Board of Governors in June and may be adopted for next season.
The Montreal Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty sustained a severe concussion last week, and Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby has been sidelined since early January because of a concussion.
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