By Joe Haggerty
RALEIGH, N.C. The NHL Board of Governors had their annual All-Star weekend meeting in Raleigh on Saturday, and concussions were certainly discussed.
But the consensus among the Governors, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the league itself is that there isnt much presently that needs to be tweaked with Rule 48 or as its known in Boston, the Savard Rule that prevents blindside head shots and blows to the head from unseen angles.
Bettman admitted to a group of reporters prior to the Honda SuperSkills competition at RBC Center that concussions are up as an aggregate number in the NHL this season, but the commissioner also informed that headshots and blindside checks are also way down from seasons past.
It appears, and again I want to emphasize that it is a preliminary, the increase in concussions appear to be in the area of accidental and inadvertent situations as most did not involve any contact with the victims head by an opponent, Bettman said prior to the Honda SuperSkills competition at the RBC Center on Saturday. Im not saying no concussions came from hits to the head, but it appears the increase is coming from somewhere else.
While thats somewhat faulty logic because any concussions that a player like Marc Savard receives for the rest of his playing career can be traced back to Matt Cookes cowardly blindside elbow to the Bs centers head, many players are clearly pulling up in situations where blindside hits might have taken place in the past.
Either way, many NHL organization heads still want to keep making adjustments and changes that can help avoid concussions at all costs the kind of injuries that have Savard laid up and Sidney Crosby missing his third straight All-Star game.
"It's something the league is taking a very strong look at," said Bruins president Cam Neely. "Obviously, you want to keep the players in the lineup as much as possible. Concussions are an issue for the league and rightfully so.
We have a player like Savard out -- it's a big deal for us and it's a big deal in our market. Every team goes through it. When you've got guys out of the lineup, it affects your club."
Above and beyond the blindside hits, it would seem that the biggest culprits in these accidental concussions are the bulky, hard plastic shoulder pads favored by players and unforgiving plexi-glass above the boards in every NHL rink.
But GMs that havent recently been badly affected by franchise-crushing concussions had a bit more of a cavalier attitude about the concussion discussion, and felt it was all about Crosby missing time due to the injury.
"The concussion thing is the topic du jour, said Brian Burke. "It'll be shoulders next year if there's a rash of shoulder injuries. Frankly, I think the biggest reason we're focused on concussions is because of Sidney.
"If Mike Brown got that concussion, would you guys all be around with cameras asking about concussions? I don't think so."
The bottom line is that the NHL will again discuss the issue at the end of March when the GMs get together for their meetings, and that is when the framework of Rule 48 was put together last season following Matt Cookes cheap shot elbow.
"It's easy to say 'the league needs to do x, y and z on concussions' (but) it's not that simple," said Bettman. "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."
Tyler Seguin said he enjoyed the All-Star festivities, though the 18-year-old said he lost feel for his stick and the puck while sitting out on the ice for nearly three hours through the entire SuperSkills competition.
Seguin also finished with a 97.1-mph slap shot in the hardest shot competition, and said afterward that Eric Staal picked him for it based on a summer Bauer camp in Atlantic Citythat the Canes superstar attended and took note of Seguin's shooting abilities."It was a great experience," said Seguin. "It was fun meeting all of these guys, and getting to know some of these super, superstars like Alex Ovechkin. He was on my team and that was pretty cool."You can learn a lot from watching these guys just like the kinds of things that I take away from all of my great teammates in Boston."
Seguin will fly back to Boston on Sunday and practice with the Bruins on Monday before flying back to Carolina with the team for Tuesday nights game against the Hurricanes at the RBC Center.
Tim Thomas became one of two goalies to be the first to ever participate in the fastest skater competition when he hopped on the ice in full equipment to dash against Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward. Thomas stumbled and fell behind his own net during the first turn, but very nearly caught up to Ward at the finish line where he ended with an 18.895 second time."Everyone was saying he might fall, but you could how hard he was trying and how much he wanted to win there," said Seguin.
Ward said afterward that Thomas was the only other goalie that agreed to take part in the competition, and the Bruins goalie had a smile of enjoyment on his face the entire time he was involved."I started to lose and then I tried to catch it, but I couldn't. 'Down goes Thomas', I guess, instead of 'Down goes Frazier," said Thomas. "I had never practiced it, but that's okay. The hometown boy won, but I think everybody knows who the faster skater was."Thomas was asked what B's GM Peter Chiarelli might have thought while watching his prized goaltender take a tumble while getting involved in a fastest skating competition."Nothing. He sees it about five times every day at practice anyway. That's why I was able to get so fast...because I have a lot of practice falling."Thomas said that there were discussions about the goaltenders taking part in the shooting accuracy competition as well, but the B's goaltender had philosophical issues with the setup of the contest. "We talked about doingit," said Thomas with tongue planted firmly in cheek. "But then I saw that they were usingMcDonald's targets on the corners. I'm a Burger King guy, so I pulled out of the competition."