New concussion protocol starts Wednesday

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The NHL will implement its new concussion protocol in NHL games starting Wednesday night, according to Nashville Predators GM David Poile.

Speaking at the close of the three-day general managers meetings here in Florida, Poile described the new protocol that will include a 15-minute break from the game in the dressing room for a player who may have suffered a concussion during play.

The protocol is aimed at keeping players who might have suffered a concussion from doing further damage by continuing to play.

The most notable example of how this protocol might have changed the outcome of an injury, of course, relates to Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, who was clipped in the head by Washington forward David Steckel during the Winter Classic Jan. 1. Crosby played in the third period of that game, and then sustained another big hit in the next game. He has not played since and only this week began to skate again. A timetable for a return to action remains unknown.

"You take a 15-minute timeout. That's a huge change. That's a very caring change to make sure that we're right," Poile said.

"They've got to go into the dressing room to be with your doctor and your trainer and they go over all the criteria. There's a test they're going to have to perform and give them a little bit of time to make sure they get to their senses and they're ready and willing to come back," Poile explained.

The Nashville GM acknowledged that players' symptoms may arise after 15 minutes, but this is an important start.

"But once again it's best efforts to care for the player, to try and put him in an environment that's safe, try to do the right thing. We're not going to be 100 percent when we're doing these things, but I would say it's a big step to ensure that they're healthy," Poile said.

"Usually after 15 minutes, a player's going to know whether I feel good or I don't feel good, that's a real good step in the right direction."

There did seem to be some confusion about the timing of the implementation of the new protocol, though, as NHL senior vice president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell said they were still working out some details on the mechanics of the protocol.

"Yeah, they're still working on the protocol, but it does take effect and the loose ends are being tied up. It's a pretty tough protocol to deal with. What is deemed a concussion? I don't want to go there yet. We're still trying to nail it down," Campbell said.

Video replay talk ends meetings

Other issues discussed by the GMs before breaking camp Wednesday included expanding the role of video replay at some point in the future.

Currently video replay applies only to whether a goal is legal or not.

But after a couple of incidents where teams were incorrectly assessed a double-minor for high sticking -- it turned out the stick foul was actually from a teammate -- hockey operations asked the GMs to consider expanding whether video replay could be used to make sure those calls are made correctly.

There is also some appetite for looking at other issues like whether a puck hit the mesh above the glass but play wasn't whistled dead and a goal was scored on the ensuing play.

"It's always about getting things right," Ottawa GM Bryan Murray said. "We have some goals, some offsides, some penalties we'd like to see reviewed. We talked about it, but realistically it is a game of human judgment. You have to allow the referees to continue what they do."

It's believed the issue will be discussed again at the June GMs meetings during the Stanley Cup final.

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke said he has concern about expanding the role of hockey operations in using video replay.

"I worry about what that does to the time of the game. I worry about how far back in time a review is allowed to go. I worry about the different camera angles in different buildings," Burke said.

"We had a goal scored this year where the puck hit the netting, fell down, no one saw it and a goal was scored. Anaheim scored a goal where two players were offside. Do you add offside to what's reviewable? The whole thing makes me nervous as far as the time of the game," Burke said.

"I think we have to go slowly here."

As for an NFL-style coaches' challenge, something Dale Tallon and others have suggested, that got little traction.

Another offshoot of the video discussion was ensuring that hockey operations is vigilant about watching during shootouts to ensure the puck continues to move forward at all times.

Martin St. Louis recently scored a controversial shootout goal on a dramatic spin-a-rama move during which the puck appeared to come to a dead stop.

"You guys really like the shootouts and I hate them," Murray said.

"It will continue to be discussed, but basically if the puck is moving and the guy spins or whatever that's fine, it's a legal goal," the Ottawa GM said.