NHL hockey commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, after attending an NHL owners meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Emails show NHL’s discussions about fighting, concussions and ‘personal tragedies’


As part of an ongoing concussion lawsuit, a Minnesota federal court unsealed some provocative emails between Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and former Department of Player Safety head Brendan Shanahan.

TSN’s Rick Westhead tracked down those emails and transcribed some of those exchanges, with a chain from 2011 (a time of considerable tragedies for enforcers) standing out.

It’s a lot to absorb, and you absolutely should read the article at TSN, but perhaps we can provide a quick synopsis.

Maybe the most significant exchange took place between Bettman and Daly while they were discussing a Globe & Mail article titled “Getting Rid of Hockey’s Goons,” which Shanahan apparently sent to them:

“Do you remember what happened when we tried to eliminate the staged fights?” Bettman wrote in a Sept. 3, 2011, email to Shanahan and Daly. “The ‘fighters’ objected and so did the pa [NHLPA]. Eliminating fighting would mean eliminating the jobs of the ‘fighters’, meaning that these guys would not have NHL careers. An interesting question is whether being an NHL fighter does this to you (I don’t believe so) or whether a certain type of person (who wouldn’t otherwise be skilled enough to be an NHL player) gravitates to this job (I believe more likely).”

Daly replied: “I tend to think its a little bit of both. Fighting raises the incidence of head injuries/concussions, which raises the incidence of depression onset, which raises the incidence of personal tragedies.”

Lawyers for the former NHL players keyed on Daly’s comment in particular, as Michael Cashman told Westhead that “this internal email from senior NHL executive Bill Daly to commissioner Bettman acknowledges the link between head injuries, depression and personal tragedies.”

The NHL attempted to get those and other emails sealed by the court, but back in January, Bettman said “they’ll be a distraction at best, but I don’t think they impact the rest of the case.”

(We’ll have to wait and see as far as that is concerned.)

The above exchange is probably the most interesting detailed in Westhead’s article, although there are plenty of other facets worth exploring, so absolutely give it a read.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ latest issue: A ‘minor concussion’

Edmonton Oilers' forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins walks between stations during the opening day of NHL hockey camp in Edmonton, Alberta, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Dan Riedlhuber)

The Edmonton Oilers provided an update on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on Thursday, and it’s not especially promising: they deem it a “minor concussion.”

He’s out for tonight’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, and considering the stakes and his woeful injury history, the Oilers would probably wise to shut him down for the rest of 2015-16.

That’s up to the Oilers, yet either way, RNH’s injury luck has been just horrendous.

Thanks to the Hockey News’ listings, we can take a look at his long line of troubling maladies:

2015-16: Currently concussed, missed 23 games with a hand injury

2013-14 and 2014-15: He was actually relatively healthy, playing in 76 and 80 games. Still lacks a fully healthy season, however.

2012-13: Yes, the season was limited by that lockout, but he missed eight out of 48 games. Disturbingly fitting that he was placed on IR less than a month after signing a seven-year contract extension.

2011-12: Missed 13 games with an upper-body injury and seven with a shoulder injury (these issues would resurface later in his career).

Even Sami Salo probably feels a little bad for RNH looking at his past few years, especially when you consider the fact that Nugent-Hopkins is still just 22.

It’s frustrating for the Oilers, and as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman noted in the latest edition of 30 Thoughts, even the rest of the league is a little exasperated:

4. You could almost hear a league-wide groan when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins left Tuesday night’s game in Arizona after taking a Connor Murphy hit. Don’t know if his future is in the Alberta capital or elsewhere, but it certainly complicates matters if he finishes the season injured. I’d keep him, but it’s not only the Oilers who recognize his value.

Yes, it’s frustrating, but none of this alters the wiser path toward ending his season rather than risking further head injuries.

Panthers captain Mitchell (concussion) ‘has to decide whether he can play’

Florida Panthers v Calgary Flames
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Heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2012, there’s no denying Florida would love to have its captain in the mix.

But there’s no denying his return is loaded with issues.

Willie Mitchell, who’s again dealing with concussion problems that have occurred throughout his lengthy career, hasn’t played since mid-January — and on Thursday, GM Dale Tallon said Mitchell’s return is up in the air.

“Willie has to decide whether he can play or not,” Talon said, per the Miami Herald. “We want to make sure he doesn’t get hurt, we want to make sure there is no permanent damage.”

Mitchell, who turns 39 in April, has been a fairly key cog for Florida since signing on two years ago. He played 66 games last season while averaging nearly 22 minutes a night, and appeared in 46 this year — with his ice time dipping to under 20 minutes per — before being sidelined.

Among other things, he was instrumental in helping prized d-man Aaron Ekblad adjust to NHL life. Ekblad lived with Mitchell during his rookie campaign, which culminated with Ekblad capturing last year’s Calder Trophy.

With Mitchell out of the lineup, Florida has a lack of experience on the back end — he’s a two-time Stanley Cup champion with nearly 90 postseason games to his credit.

In Monday’s 4-2 loss to the Rangers, the six defensemen that dressed — Ekblad, Steve Kampfer, Alex Petrovic, Dmitry Kulikov, Jakub Kindl and Brian Campbell — have a grand total of 123 playoff games.

Campbell accounts for most of that, with 97. Another injured defenseman, Erik Gudbranson, has seven.

So it’s obvious the Panthers would love to have Mitchell back. But they’re not willing to risk further damage in order to do so.

“This is up to Willie. We want to do what is best for him. That’s the bottom line,” Tallon said. “The doctors have said they’re concerned with his long-term health.”

Jets’ Perreault diagnosed with concussion after crash into boards

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Winnipeg forward Mathieu Perreault has been diagnosed with a concussion following a nasty collision into the boards during Sunday’s loss to Anaheim, per Jets head coach Paul Maurice.

Perreault was hurt midway through the second period, when he lost his balance and slid back-first into the side boards. The 28-year-old remained on the ice for a lengthy period of time before exiting.

He didn’t return to the contest.

It remains to be seen if Perreault will return to action this season. The Jets have nothing to play for — at least standings-wise — and only have 10 games remaining.

This is a tough development for Perreault, however. He was on pace to set a career-best in points (was 43, has 41 this year) and already posted a career high in games played, with 71.


Pierre-Marc Bouchard retires, citing concussion risk

Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason and Fedor Tyutin of Russia, right, watches the puck enter the net on a tie-breaking goal to win the game by Minnesota Wild's Pierre-Marc Bouchard, left, in the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 in Saint Paul, Minn. The Wild won 3-2. It was Bouchard's 100th career goal. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Former NHLer Pierre-Marc Bouchard has retired due to the long-term risk of sustaining another concussion.

Bouchard has spent the past two seasons playing for Swiss team EV Zug. The 31-year-old forward spent most of his NHL career with the Minnesota Wild, who drafted him eighth overall in 2002.

Bouchard’s concussion issues date back to the tail end of the 2008-09 season. In 2009-10, he missed all but the Wild’s season-opener, then didn’t return until December of the 2010-11 campaign. A concussion caused him to miss half of 2011-12 as well.

After a short stint with the Islanders, he headed for Europe in 2014.

Bouchard was Zug’s leading scorer this season, piling up 67 points in 49 games. He finished his NHL career with 356 points in 593 games.