NHL GMs decide on new concussion protocol; will take effect next week

Gary Bettman fired a pre-emptive strike on the opening day of meetings for NHL general managers, announcing a five-point plan to try and combat the concussion issue.

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Gary Bettman fired a pre-emptive strike on the opening day of meetings for NHL general managers, announcing a five-point plan to try and combat the concussion issue.

The commissioner made it clear that he wasn’t content to wait very long before seeing changes take effect.

One of the key components of the plan is a change to the concussion protocol that will require players displaying concussion symptoms to be examined by a doctor in a quiet location before returning to the ice. Until now, trainers were able to perform a test on the bench during a game.

The change will take effect very soon.

“We probably need a few days because we’re going to need some conference calls with the physicians and the trainers to make sure they understand what to do,” Bettman said Monday. “But once we can fully implement it, which will be in the next few days, it will be in effect.”

The commissioner also announced that teams — and potentially coaches — will start being held responsible if their players are suspended multiple times in a season and that the NHL is in the process of hiring safety engineers to inspect all NHL arenas.

That is in direct response to the neck and head injuries suffered by Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty when he was driven into a stanchion by Boston’s Zdeno Chara last week.

Bettman defended the league’s decision not to fine or suspend Chara for that incident.

“I took a poll of the general managers and overwhelmingly they believe that the right decision was made in that case and that no supplemental discipline should have been imposed,” he said.

The league has also tasked executive Brendan Shanahan to work with the NHL Players’ Association to expedite potential equipment modifications and created a special committee featuring Shanahan, Rob Blake, Steve Yzerman and Joe Nieuwendyk to investigate the concussion issue.

The announcement of Bettman’s five-point plan came on the first of three days of meetings on Florida’s Atlantic coast.

The GMs will continue meeting Tuesday and Wednesday, when they might decide to propose a rule change to try and improve the safety of the game.

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