This week's Big Question: What do you think of the concussion protocol?
Wayne Gretzky: "In the old days, it was like, 'Take two aspirin, come to practice tomorrow, skate for two hours and you'll sweat it out.' We've come a long ways. It's just trying to recognize they want to protect the players the best way possible. Again, we've learned so much about concussions and yet there's so much more to learn from every side, from the doctors' point of view, from the athletes' point of view. We're still at the beginnings of this. They have to do whatever they can to protect the athlete."
Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs: "I think it's pretty important, all these head injuries today, it's really important stuff that can affect you long-term. I think it's pretty important that they definitely make the right call and not take any chances on that. It could be pretty devastating."
Kevin Bieksa, D, Anaheim Ducks: "I've seen our trainer ask defensemen, 'Did you get hit there? How did you feel?' I haven't been through it yet. I'm not sure how it's working. You can always trick a trainer if you want to. There's still a lot of onus on the players. I know referees will come by and ask you sometimes if they think you got hit or they'll tell the trainer, 'Have a look at this guy in between periods.' It's a good thing. I know what they're trying to do because most of the time, the way we're wired, we're not going to leave the game unless we don't know where we are, unless we're confused, unless we're clearly concussed. A lot of these minor concussions where sometimes maybe we should step back, we would never do on our own, so it's good to have somebody else take over."
David Backes, C, Boston Bruins: "I think it's necessary. It's similar to something we did in St. Louis in my time there, you just get pulled away for a second. You get a chance to catch your breath and get a chance to talk with the doc, he gets to look at you and you can have your say, 'Yeah, I'm feeling all right' or 'I'm just not feeling right.' Those 10 minutes that you're away from the game could save you 10 games missed, or 10 months missed as in some of these cases, and you're not getting that second-concussion syndrome, which could be career threatening. I just think it's a small inconvenience throughout the process of a game that could save you a lot of time. You only get one brain and you want to take care of it.
"Guys are starting to smarten up and the culture is starting to accept that more that those are intelligent decisions, rather than thinking with your heart and pushing through anything that you have.
"If it's a bruise or a sprain, that hockey mentality still exists, but an orthopedic surgeon can mend the other parts of your body. The neuroscience guys haven't figured out how to undo concussion effects time and time again. The brain is a very fragile thing and you want to take care of it, and the rest of our body we're going to sacrifice like crazy to win games and that's the beauty of the game. But we're just being a lot smarter. We're using our brains to protect our brains."
Brent Burns, D, San Jose Sharks: "The protocol, I really do think it's what has to happen, whether you like it or not. We're all the same, we can all say the same stuff to other guys, 'If you think you're not right, you've got to get out.' You've got to say it. And then you get yourself dinged and you think you're fine. You convince yourself. I think as humans we're really good at adapting and overcoming things. You hurt your ankle? You limp, you're fine, you can still walk. Pull your groin? Your hammy takes over. We adapt and overcome. When you get a concussion and you're not feeling right, you're just, 'Ah, I probably just didn't have a good enough nap. I didn't eat good last night. Tomorrow I'll be better.' It has to be taken out of the players' hands. ... There are things we still don't know. We're still learning so much. It's hard to diagnose. As individuals, it's hard sometimes to know what you're feeling. I don't feel right, what does that mean? Your ears, your sinuses, your eyes, did you feel s----- today? I got smoked in the mouth and I've got a bad headache. Yeah, I lost three teeth, I should have a headache. But is it a brain injury? Or is it: mouth, sore, smashed my neck and my head almost fell off. Who knows? You go through the testing."
Aaron Ekblad, D, Florida Panthers: "I think lifestyle, in the sense of being healthy, is more important. You don't want to end up having too many of those problems -- concussions -- while playing, then end up being a vegetable when you're older, so you kind of have to understand that as a player. It's been a hard realization for me, but after the last couple I realized there's life outside of hockey, there are another 12 hours in a day where you've got to be a normal person, so it's important to protect yourself and be protected by other people, and the league is taking that initiative and it's a good step."
Joe Thornton, C, San Jose Sharks: "I know hockey players are tough guys and they want to play through anything and everything, but when there is a questionable hit to the head, I think it's good you take five minutes out of your game to go in and make sure you're OK. So I think it's great idea."
Cam Fowler, D, Anaheim Ducks: "I think it's great. I don't think you can ever have too much safety and that just means that people care and are looking after us. I know with the whole thing with Connor [McDavid] with actually nothing being wrong and they still had to take him, you're going to deal with stuff like that every once in a while, but in the whole scheme of things, it's people looking out for your best interests and that's all that really matters."
Jack Capuano, coach, New York Islanders: "For me, and for people I know in my family that have gone through it, I think [the NHL] is doing what's best for the players. This is a fast, physical game and I believe with the National Hockey League and the way that it's set up, that if a player gets hit and they feel that he needs to get checked out, it's about health first, so I'm a big believer in that. I'm a big believer in making sure that you take care of the individual.
"We're going through a situation right now with Mikhail Grabovski. It's a difficult situation and when you see a player like that, it's tough because he was such a competitive kid, and a big part of our team, and he's not able to play now. I like the protocol the way it is and if they feel that a player needs to get checked, then I'm all for it."
Jarome Iginla, RW, Colorado Avalanche: "We've had them where guys have been spotted and they probably should've been taken out, so I've only seen positive things with it. ... So, you do need other people helping out. It's not always the most convenient but it's the right thing to do and to be cautious about it. Guys don't want to miss one game, or two games, but if they screw that up, they miss time and could be cutting years off their career and changing their lives later, so I think it's the right thing."
Zach Parise, C, Minnesota Wild: "You know what? It's hard to argue with because of the way things are not only in our sport but other sports, too. Like football. Just with the lawsuits and stuff. Everyone is trying to take a step back and protect themselves and protect the players. At the end of the day, I think everyone is trying to protect the players and do what's best for them. I think we're all trying to do what's best for everybody, and if that's what they think it is, then, yeah."
Patrice Bergeron, C, Boston Bruins: "I'm fine with it. They're trying to protect the players, but protect themselves also at the same time. Yes, sometimes some of the calls might be a little iffy because the guy is fine, but might as well make sure and go and get it checked and be 100 percent sure. I understand sometimes it's late in a game and you don't want that to happen, but at the end of the day it's our careers and it's somewhat trying to protect us and I don't mind it."
Ben Bishop, G, Tampa Bay Lightning: "I don't mind it. I think it's going to be good for the guys but at the same time I think there's got to be some, it's got to be on the players and the medical staff on the team to decide. I don't think somebody up in the press box should make that type of call. I'd be interested to see what they do in the playoffs, if they're still going to have that rule, because I'm sure there'll be a lot of teams getting fined because they won't be sending guys off. We've had, on this team, some high sticks, kind of innocent plays and they're trying to go for [the protocol]. So maybe they're taking it too far. I mean, it's for the players' safety, so you can't really argue about it. But it'd be interesting to see if they change the rule for playoffs."
Nazem Kadri, C, Toronto Maple Leafs: "I mean, it's good for the league, it's better to be safe than sorry. But obviously it's unfortunate that sometimes -- it's happened to me before where I got taken off and I didn't really feel like being taken off. I didn't feel like I needed to go off. But like I said, they only have our best interests [in mind] and I think it's good for the league."
Mike Sullivan, coach, Pittsburgh Penguins: "The league is certainly moving in the right direction and trying to protect our players. Having said that, it can be difficult at times when you're coaching because you can lose certain players for periods of time during the course of the game when you're trying to win games, and sometimes they're your best players, your most influential players, so that can certainly be a challenge when you're in the heat of the battle, but it's a necessary process and a necessary step that the league has taken."
Eastern Conference scout: "I think it's needed to be done. I think it's been executed in the right way in the NHL. I haven't been to a game where I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I can't believe they pulled him off the ice.' I think that dynamic might change in the playoffs, if it's a star player or starting goalie and you put in a [backup goalie] in cold. That's probably going to upset some people. At the end of the day, the most important thing is health and family. This is just a game."
--Joe McDonald, Pierre LeBrun, Craig Custance, Scott Burnside