The "Mark Messier M11" helmet
may be one method to try and
reduce concussions in the NHL
The National Football League drew attention recently over concussion research which found that players have a higher likelihood of developing long-term problems. But, the NFL isn’t the only professional sports league putting emphasis on protecting its players against head injuries, one major topic buzzing at a meeting of NHL general managers in Toronto was hits to players’ heads.
The discussion, led by Montreal Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey, is specifically concerning the need for a rules change. Gainey said “I think everyone agrees more needs to be done.” Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said the NHL general managers will present a formal rules change recommendation at the next General Managers Meeting in March. No one would say exactly what the suggested rule change will be, but Rutherford said the proposed rule will work to protect players who are blindsided.
Some GM’s aren’t waiting until March to make more effort to protect players’ heads. Toronto Maple Leafs Brian Burke outfitted his AHL affiliate team with new helmets called the “Mark Messier M11.” The helmet is designed to absorb more force than current ones. Several NHL players have already begun wearing the Messier helmet.
If you are wondering about fighting, well, let’s just say it’s always going to be an issue of contention. The GM’s appear to be in favor of further limiting fighting. At last year’s General Manager Meeting, Burke suggested instigator penalties be called on anyone trying to start a fight because of a big hit. The NHL has already made rule changes in attempt to make fighting safer, and there appear to be more on the way. Other ideas include stopping the fight as soon as a players’ helmet comes off or jersey is pulled over his head.
It appears that general managers and the NHL front office are walking a tight rope, in a dilemma similar to that of the NFL, where they want to preserve the game’s integrity but somehow keep players safe. The NFL has faced complaints from players and commentators that the rules are “too soft.” The NHL, which is not nearly as popular as the NFL, wants to avoid scrutiny without endangering its players.
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Matthew Coller is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network. He can be followed on Twitter
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