There are times when the NHL’s concussion protocols feel as toothless as its most rugged players. Perhaps that might change starting in 2016-17?
The league backed up reports that additional “concussion spotters” will oversee games in addition to team-specific ones, but this section of the press release shows the most promise:
Specified sanctions will be imposed on Clubs that violate the Concussion Protocol. Clubs that do not remove a Player who requires an evaluation will be subject to a mandatory minimum fine for a first offense, with substantially increased fine amounts for any subsequent offense. Additionally, any Player designated for a mandatory evaluation will not be permitted to re-enter the game unless and until he is evaluated by his Club’s medical staff and cleared to play in accordance with the Protocol.
Interestingly, the league also revealed that on-ice officials can call for a player’s removal if he shows “visible signs of [a] concussion.”
Perhaps these measures won’t be perfect, yet they feel like legitimate improvements after half-measures and tweaks that seemed ineffectual.
Granted, NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika notes that Gary Bettman discussed fining teams for violating concussion protocol in 2014 as well, so we’ll have to see about the follow-through with these tweaks.
(Critics may wonder if concussion-related lawsuits inspired these greater measures, but either way, progress is progress.)
While we may quibble with the way the NHL polices hits, helping players avoiding further injury could be a very nice step in the right direction.
Again, though, we won’t know for sure until we see the new measures in action.