Colorado Avalanche: Facing Concussions in Modern Hockey

25 of 30

Sep 9, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr appear on stage together during a press conference and media event for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Another Way to Play?

NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman understands the direness of the situation looming in hockey. He told the NY Times during the All Star break after noting the slight rise in concussions statistics in the season, “Of course, the ideal number of concussions would be zero. Our objective is to come as close as possible to getting that result without changing the fundamental nature of our game.”

The fundamental nature of the game is pretty violent in hockey. Bettman acknowledges this in his quote, but unlike football, there are far more examples of leagues in the sport across the world. For instance, the rules regarding contact to the head are stricter in the International Ice Hockey Federation, which are the rules used in the Olympics.

Those rules don’t allow fighting, reduce hitting and are played on an ice surface sized for 3,000 more square feet of ice than their North American counterparts. Generally speaking, the gameplay is a little more puck possession driven in the European game. Changing the size of the rink could be worth trying out.

Getting back to Bettman’s quote – what IS the “fundamental nature” of hockey? Does it include hitting? Does it allow fighting? While the numbers regarding the amount of concussions in the sport differ in ratio between fighting and hitting, it’s clear that both are causing brain injuries.

It feels likely that the NFL is going to have to settle the matters on concussions in a big way before the NHL does, but both seem destined to face the music eventually. The difference for me, is that the terms are a little more bearable in hockey when you speculate about how that begins to happen.

Next: Banning Fighting