The National Hockey League will be making some changes to their concussion protocol for the 2016-2017 season.
Deputy Commissioner, Bill Daly said that there will be four concussion spotters watching all games throughout the season, from a centralized location in Toronto or New York. There will also be spotters located at each game, looking for symptoms of a concussion after a player takes a hard hit.
The spotters will have the authority to remove players from a game if they suspect he has shown any symptoms.
Daly said, “It is a pretty major revamp from what it was last year. We are going to have both those [remote and on-site] spotters, plus you have the clubs’ medical staffs. We are just building reinforcements, really, to make the system work better.”
In the past, the spotters were team affiliated and they could recommend to the medical staffs the player be removed, but were not required to do it. According to Daly, the new concussion policy takes effect during the World Cup of Hockey, when the tournament begins on Saturday in Toronto.
More details will be released about the protocol as the season draws closer, but Daly did say, “Players get removed for visible signs, and that will be mandatory removal, and will be done at the league level.”
The concussion spotters will be part of the Department of Player Safety and report directly to the league’s chief medical consultant and lawyer, Julie Grand.
The league has been dealing with a legal battle involving a concussion lawsuit amongst several former players. Those players argue that the league had the resources to prevent head injuries and failed to warn them about the risks, while promoting violent play which led to their injuries.
Daly also noted that the NHL and NHL Players Association agreed to stricter drug testing standards for the World Cup. Those policies are similar to that of the World Anti-Doping Agency. He said that the players were subjected to drug testing during the pre-tournament training camps and three players from each club would be tested following each match.
He added, “I would not say it is like the Olympics, but it is pretty close to what the Olympic program was. The list for what we test for is broader in this tournament than it is in the regular season.”
Changes to goalie equipment will be minimal according to Daly, the new slimmer pants will be ready for the start of the regular season, but the chest protectors will remain the same due to manufacturing delays. He said the NHL could push for the smaller upper body equipment by midseason, but did not know if the NHLPA would approve of that.
He also added that there was “radio silence” regarding NHL participation in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, but he expects both sides to meet with the International Ice Hockey Federation during the World Cup.