NHL’s new concussion protocol goes into effect

Apparently not everyone got the memo about the NHL’s stricter stance toward blows to the head.

A few hours after general managers concluded meetings Wednesday that produced resolutions intended to enhance safety and minimize head injuries, the league suspended San Jose Sharks forward Dany Heatley for two games for elbowing Dallas forward Steve Ott in the head Tuesday. Heatley, who got an interference penalty on the ice, will forfeit $80,645.16 which will go to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Boston forward Brad Marchand is scheduled for a disciplinary hearing Thursday to review his elbow to head of Columbus forward R.J. Umberger on Tuesday. Marchand didn’t get a penalty but the NHL can review any play and impose a fine or suspension.


The first part of the league’s new concussion protocol took effect Wednesday. Players who report concussion symptoms or are observed to have symptoms such as balance problems, disorientation or a facial injury will be removed from the game and sent to a quiet place for examination by a doctor. In the past, only the approval of a trainer at the bench was required for a player to return after possibly sustaining a head injury.

The general managers’ three-day session in Boca Raton, Fla., ended with discussions of the legality of using a “spinorama” move in the shootout and of possibly expanding the limited use of replays. Adding a coach’s challenge to an on-ice decision is expected to be debated in depth at the Board of Governors’ meetings in June.

In trick moves like the spinorama, the general managers recommended that if the puck comes to a stop the play must be blown dead and subjected to review.

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Expanding replays beyond determining whether the puck has crossed the goal line or if a goal was scored with a deliberate kicking motion drew mixed sentiments. “The whole thing makes me nervous,” Toronto General Manager Brian Burke told the league’s website, “We’ve got to be careful how far we take it.”

Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay’s general manager, favors increased usage of replays. “Let’s expand it. We want the right decision made,” he said.