Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Championship - Semifinals

Virginia Tech helmet study could ‘hit hockey like a ton of bricks’


Whether it’s actually true that there were fewer concussions in the 2013-14 season or not, head injuries remain a significant problem in the NHL and in the sport overall. The New York Times reports that Virginia Tech researchers are tackling at least one facet of the issue: the helmets that protect those vulnerable heads.

Dr. Stefan M. Duma and Dr. Steven Rowson are pivoting their STAR system from studies that began with Virginia Tech’s football team in 2011 and applying those standards to hockey helmets.

“After football, hockey is the sport that produces the highest rate of concussion,” Dr. Duma said. “We want to produce a mechanism to try and reduce that risk of concussion.”

While it’s unclear if increased internal padding truly helps reduce the risks of concussions, that seems to be one of the standards that generates a higher rating on that STAR system. The New York Times reports that the two researchers are expected to release their findings in the fall or winter, and the results might not be pretty.

Although concussions can be caused by all sorts of contact, Duma said, they tend to occur most often when the head is subjected to 80 to 120 g’s of acceleration. The current standard for acceptability by USA Hockey and other governing bodies require helmets only to reduce high accelerations acting against the head to 300 g’s. A 2011 report by the concussion-awareness organization US Youth Sports noted that standard as the lowest “of any contact sporting helmet allowed for use in the United States.”

ICS Laboratories president Dale Pfriem told the New York Times that these findings will “hit hockey like a ton of bricks.” (A side-by-side comparison between the padding inside a hockey helmet and a football helmet certainly seems jarring.)

Pierre-Luc Beauchamp, a spokesman for CCM, said it’s too early to tell what might happen as a result of the research – the report indicates that the STAR system made a big impact on football helmet sales – and wonders if more padding means fewer concussions.

Those are all valid questions, but taking a deeper look at equipment might just help make a dangerous game a little bit safer.

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
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The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.

You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:

If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.

The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?