PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks with the media during a press conference prior to Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks at Consol Energy Center on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Senator says Bettman, NHL are ‘in denial’ about concussions, CTE

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This isn’t the first time Gary Bettman denied or downplayed the link between concussions and CTE; it also isn’t the first time that someone has been stunned by his stance.

Even so, it’s difficult to look away from the bank-and-forth between the NHL’s commissioner and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, most recently spotlighted by Sports Illustrated.

It began with Blumenthal’s letter to Bettman and the NHL, dated June 23, which cited the NFL acknowledging a link between football and CTE. He then asked Bettman nine questions related to how the NHL handles brain injuries and how it might be different from the NHL.

The New York Times passes along a response dated July 22, Bettman described the science linking CTE to concussions as “nascent” and reasserted his previous stance:

“The relationship between concussions and the asserted clinical symptoms of C.T.E. remains unknown.”

Blumenthal was “appalled” by Bettman’s take, according to Sports Illustrated and the Senator himself.

Perhaps you could chalk this up to a public relations battle of sorts, although TSN reports that this latest round of comments might provide fuel for lawyers working on a concussion lawsuit against the NHL.

“We should have the chance now to walk him through some of his denials and find out why he has made his statements and ask him what makes him so sure,” Lead counsel Charles Zimmerman said. “Why is he so willing to go against conventional science which says repeated blows to the head cause damage to the brain?”

As familiar as some of this might feel for those following the way the league is handling concussions, it could mean that the NHL will follow in the NFL’s footsteps in a costly way.

At minimum, it’s been a mess for the league, and it doesn’t seem like things will get easier anytime soon.

Latest development in concussion lawsuit could be bad news for NHL

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22:  Commissioner Gary Bettman of the National Hockey League addresses the media during the Board Of Governors Press Conference prior to the 2016 NHL Awards at Encore Las Vegas on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The latest development in the concussion-related lawsuit between former players and the NHL could be bad news for the league.

TSN’s Rick Westhead reports that the Chubb Corp., the league’s insurance company, was ordered by Judge Susan Nelson to hand over the players’ medical records (after removing information that would identify individuals).

Westhead believes that reps for the former players sought that information – a request that was initially denied in 2015 – for two main reasons:

1. To see if “the records may shed more light on the prevalence among former players of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other brain-crippling disorders.”

2. In an attempt to determine how much the league and/or insurance company knows about the health situations for those players.

There’s precedent for such legal actions making an impact on cases related to concussions.

Westhead notes that the NFL was forced to release similar information in their case, which may have factored into a decision that resulted in a $1 billion settlement. It was determined that former NFL players were indeed more likely to deal with brain injuries.

Back in April 2015, the link between the NFL and NHL cases seemed beneficial for the former players’ side, as The Star’s Kevin McGran reported.

“This is precedent-setting,” Richard Powers, a sports law expert at the Rotman School of Business, said of the NFL’s settlement. “The claim (by retired NHLers) is almost exactly like the NFL’s.”

Now, that doesn’t mean that the NHL will face the same results as the NFL, especially since this court case could very well face additional twists and turns.

Here’s a quick refresher on some of the other recent developments:

It’s not the sort of situation the league would like to deal with, even if it ends up being in the NHL’s favor once things are finished.

Clowe, forced to stop playing due to concussions, joins Devils’ coaching staff

Ryane Clowe
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Ryane Clowe, whose playing career was cut short by concussion issues, has embarked on a new chapter — coaching.

On Tuesday, the Devils announced that Clowe will join head coach John Hynes’ staff as an assistant for the upcoming campaign.

More, from the club:

Clowe will join Assistant Coaches Geoff Ward, Alain Nasreddine and Goaltending Coach Chris Terreri on John Hynes’ staff.

“We are looking forward to Ryane joining our staff,” said Hynes. “His character, expertise as a player, knowledge of the game and passion to coach will be a benefit for our players and the Devils’ organization.”

Clowe, 33, signed a five-year, $24.25 million deal with the Devils in 2013, but only appeared in 56 games over the course of two seasons due to the aforementioned concussion issues. He stopped playing entirely last fall on doctors’ recommendations, having suffered four concussions in a two-year span — including the last in November of 2014 against St. Louis.

“Ryane Clowe was the guy — you think of [Milan] Lucic, you think of Clowe, those are the two guys that teams always wanted,” Devils GM Ray Shero said at the time, per NHL.com. “You’d have to talk to (San Jose Sharks general manager) Doug Wilson (about) how many times teams would try to trade for Ryane Clowe, because you couldn’t find guys like that.”

Rather than officially retire, Clowe was placed on long-term injured reserve and will remain there until his contract expires in 2018. Shero orchestrated a similar move with Marc Savard, acquired from Florida last month.

Savard, who is also no longer playing due to concussion issues, will remai on New Jersey’s books until the end of next season.

NHL loses bid to dismiss concussion suit

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, right, speaks at a news conference before the NHL Awards show Wednesday, June 24, 2015, in Las Vegas. At left is Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. The NHL is officially exploring expansion. The league is opening a formal expansion review process to consider adding new franchises to its 30-team league, Bettman announced Wednesday, June 24, 2015. Las Vegas, Seattle and Quebec City are the markets that have expressed the most serious interest. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) A federal judge in Minnesota has denied the NHL’s latest attempt to throw out a class-action lawsuit by former players filed over head injuries.

The league had argued that the suit should be tossed because the issues raised by the former players were covered under the collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson wrote in a 47-page opinion that the CBA does not pre-empt legal action, in part because the players are retired and no longer subject to the CBA.

Dan LaCouture, Michael Peluso, Gary Leeman, Bernie Nicholls, David Christian and Reed Larson represent former players who say the NHL did not sufficiently protect or inform the players of the dangers when it comes to head injuries they suffered when they played.

Fleury still experiencing concussion symptoms, ‘one of the toughest things I’ve been through’

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) blocks a shot during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The Penguins more than survived Marc-Andre Fleury‘s absence in their opening-round playoff win against the Rangers, as Matt Murray and Jeff Zatkoff combined to beat the Blueshirts in five games.

In the second round, though — against the top-seeded Capitals — it’s safe to assume Pittsburgh wants Fleury back in the mix.

Problem is, Fleury’s not there yet. He’s still dealing with concussion symptoms.

“It’s one of the toughest things I’ve been through,” Fleury said after Monday’s optional workout, per the Post-Gazette. “Some good days, when you think you’re back, and some bad days, when you think it’s never going to get fixed.”

Fleury hasn’t played since Mar. 31, when he suffered the concussion against Nashville. He’s since missed 10 games — five regular-season, five playoff — and while the second round start date has yet to be determined, Fleury has to be considered questionable at this point.

Thankfully for the Pens, Murray has been up to the challenge thus far.

After missing the first two games of the Rangers series with an upper-body ailment, the 21-year-old ripped off three straight wins, posting a .955 save percentage and a 31-save shutout in Game 4.

“He’s got a quiet confidence about him that I think really helps him deal with the ebbs and flows,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said of Murray, per NHL.com. “For a young guy, he’s mature beyond his years.

“I also think he’s a guy that reads the play extremely well and because of that, positionally, he’s a very sound guy.”