Gary Bettman: NHL has "been extremely proactive"

bettman.jpgDavid
Haugh of the Chicago Tribune
was able to score a fairly lengthy
interview with NHL commissioner, asking him a number of questions
pertaining to the recent rule changes, suspensions and the future of the
NHL. Here are some highlights of what he had to say.

The
rash of nasty incidents since the Olympics had to factor into the NHL’s
decision Thursday to toughen its policy on review and discipline of
“lateral, back-pressure or blind-side” hits, especially to the head,
right?

Was it the post Olympics activity that caused this? No.
We’ve been extremely proactive on the issue of injuries in general and
concussions in particular going back to 1997. We were the first pro
sports league to do baseline testing, used as a diagnostic tool for
return-to-play decisions. Over the past year, we’ve had a group of
medical professionals looking at the videotape of 199 recent
concussions. We have constantly taken steps to do anything possible to
protect our players.

I’d like to just say here that
the NHL is far from proactive on these issues, especially when it comes
to punitive measures for illegal hits. This past week’s kneejerk
reaction and attempt to pass a new rule that was in direct response to a
rash of what should be illegal hits is the very definition of reactive.
If the NHL is so intent on being ‘proactive’ then the league should
have addressed all hits to the head two years ago.

More after the
jump.

Did the fact that Ovechkin is a superstar
affect the length of his
suspension?

No. Your history as a player and the number of times you’ve been
involved in an incident may, but no. The Ovechkin play, he was suspended
for being careless and reckless, not for doing anything malicious. The
fact is, when you look at lots of hockey plays, that was a hockey play. I
don’t think he was going out of his way to try and hurt Brian.

I
don’t think I’ve ever actually agreed with Bettman on something,
completely. The suspension was completely warranted based on Ovechkin’s
history and the play in question. It wasn’t an overtly dirty hit, just a
reckless one.

The issue is that while his star
status might not have come into play here, there’s no doubt that the NHL
has gained a reputation for coddling star players when it comes to
punishment. Maybe a form of a standardized punishment system would work,
which would fall under that ‘proactive’ approach Bettman is so certain
the NHL is using.

Bettman would also go on to talk about how great the Coyotes have
done this season, and the possibilities of Jerry Reinsdorf as a
potential owner. He also says the Chicago national anthem tradition is
far from unpatriotic, and says the NHL is far from making a decision on
the league’s involvement in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

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    The Buzzer: McElhinney with the McShutout, Schenn scores again

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    Players of the Night: 

    Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs:

    McElhinney turned aside all 41 shots that came his way as the Leafs shutout the Edmonton Oilers 1-0. The Leafs backup improved to 3-2-0 on the season and his save percentage jumped from .900 to 9.25. Toronto has now won three straight and six of their past 10.

    Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues:

    Schenn notched his sixth goal in his past four games and extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with a goal 40 seconds into the game. The Blues are now winners of four straight and six of their past 10.

    Eric Stall, Minnesota Wild & Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: 

    Both scored twice for their respective teams in an entertaining 4-3 win for the Wild in overtime.

    Highlight of the Night: 

    Vladimir Tarasenko catches the Sabres defense sleeping in overtime, scoring his first non-empty net goal in nine games:

    Factoid of the Night: 

    Patrick Kane didn’t score, but his two assists were instrumental in giving the Chicago Blackhawks a victory on Sunday.

    Scores: 

    Blackhawks 3, Coyotes 1

    Blues 3, Sabres 2 (OT)

    Maple Leafs 1, Oilers 0

    Wild 4, Sharks 3


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Alex Burrows fined $5,000 for roughing

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    Alex Burrows won’t be on Dylan DeMelo‘s Christmas card list this year.

    Not after Burrows swiped DeMelo in the face with the butt-end of his stick on Saturday night.

    Burrows got slapped with a $5,000 fine for roughing on Sunday night, the maximum permissible under the CBA. The money is one thing, but Burrows and the Senators have bigger issues at the moment.

    It didn’t help the little incident happened in the third period and the game all but over for the Senators. Here’s the slow-mo shot of the infraction:

    DeMelo suffered a scratch cornea and narrowly missed a major eye injury, according to Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer. 

    DeMelo was in the lineup for the Sharks on Sunday against the Minnesota Wild.

    Burrows’ $5,000 goes to the player’s Emergency Assistance Fund.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Is it a slump or is regression setting in for the Winnipeg Jets?

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    Might regression be hitting the Winnipeg Jets at the moment?

    It’s a question Jets fans are asking themselves after a three-game road trip that produced just a single point and a goose egg in the win column.

    It’s the first time the Jets have lost three straight all season. In year’s past, this wouldn’t have come as much surprise, but the Jets have thrown the status quo out the window this season and have sung a different tune.

    The analytics would suggest the Jets were due for a fall back to earth.

    For most of the season, they’ve been near the bottom of the league in terms of Corsi, with only recently climbing up that ladder with a help of a very lopsided game against the Ottawa Senators.

    Regression in goal is also starting to happen, and a lot of Winnipeg’s early-season success had to do with how well Connor Hellebuyck had been playing.

    Hellebuyck has been sensational most of the season and his 15-3-4  record supports that. But his save percentage has been trending in the wrong direction lately. In five of his past six starts, Hellebuyck has only achieved a .900 save percentage or better once, and that came in that 5-0 shutout against the Senators.

    Nov. 27 vs MIN: .895
    Nov. 29 vs COL: .885
    Dec. 1 vs VGK: .871
    Dec. 3 vs. OTT: 1.000
    Dec. 5 vs DET: .844
    Dec. 9 vs TBL: .857

    The Jets give up a lot of shots, so the odds that Hellebuyck’s early season numbers would survive throughout the year were low.

    The sky is by no means falling in Winnipeg. The Jets showed they can go toe-to-toe with the league’s best on Saturday. Overtime has just been the bane of their existence this season with a 0-5 record in free hockey.

    The Jets touched the summit of the Western Conference last week, a pipe dream around these parts in recent times. They also possess two of the league’s top point-producers (Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler) and one of the league’s top goal scorers (Patrik Laine), not to mention having a rookie just outside top 10 in rookie scoring (Kyle Connor).

    Prior to the road trip, Winnipeg’s power play had scored eight times in 19 attempts.

    The Jets have also been largely healthy. Defenseman Toby Enstrom is the midst of an eight-week spell in the press box — and there’s a pending diagnosis coming for Dustin Byfuglien after he left Saturday’s game in Tampa Bay with a lower-body injury — but the Jets gotten by relatively unscathed thus far and managed well when Mathieu Perreault and Adam Lowry missed several games.

    The Jets have made too many strides this season to regress too far away from where they are right now. Asking a team to go from outside the playoff line to tops in the division might be asking a tad too much. But with that said, the Jets are simply a good team these days and stacked with high-level talent.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Calgary Hitmen fans make 24K stuffed animals fly during Teddy Bear Toss (Video)

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    Congratulations, Vladislav Yeryomenko, you were this year’s Teddy Bear Toss goal scorer for the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen.

    Yeryomenko’s goal at 9:36 of the first period during their game Sunday vs. the Moose Jaw Warriors was the sign for Hitmen fans to launch their teddy bears inside the Saddledome. Boy, it sure did rain plenty of fur.

    Here’s what it looked like:

    And here’s a fan’s eye view:

    After a clean up delay of approximately 40 minutes , the game resumed but the Hitmen would fall to the Warriors 6-3. The counting, as you would imagine, took some time, but when they were finished it was announced that an astounding 24,605 stuffed animals were collected, which will go to 60 local charities.

    “It’s an unforgettable moment,” Yeryomenko said via the Hitmen website. “It’s possible it can only happen once in your life and it happened to me. I enjoyed the moment of it all.”

    There were 23,924 stuffed animals tossed during last year’s game, and the Hitmen hold the record of 28,815 bears, which was set in 2015.

    The Hitmen have been holding this event since 1995 and are their fans are the true leaders in tossing those bears. Including this Sunday’s total, the team has collected 347,948 stuffed animals for local charities. Just last weekend the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears held their Toss event and fans there set a team record with an impressive 25,017 stuffed animals hitting the ice.

    This once again proves that the Teddy Bear Toss is the greatest promotion in all of sports.

    ————

    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.