BOCA RATON, Fla., March 14 (UPI) -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Monday presented league general managers meeting in Florida a five-point plan aimed at reducing player concussions.
NHL.com reported one step will be for the league to work with the players' union to try to reduce the size of player equipment so an opposing player isn't hurt by contact yet the protection it affords the wearer is not compromised.
The NHL Protocol for Concussion Evaluation and Management has been revised to require mandatory removal from play if a player reports any listed symptoms or shows any listed signs of a concussion, examination by the team physician in a quiet place free from distraction and use of "an acute evaluation tool" by team physicians rather than a quick rinkside assessment.
The NHL board will be asked to elevate the standard for holding a team and its coach accountable if there are a number of "repeat offenders" with regard to supplementary discipline.
The league also will have a safety engineering firm evaluate all 30 arenas and determine what changes, if any, can and should be made to enhance player safety.
Finally, a 'blue-ribbon' committee of former players Brendan Shanahan, Rob Blake, Steve Yzerman and Joe Nieuwendyk is to look at safety issues.
Under the NHL's Rule 48, any lateral or blindside hit where the head is targeted and/or becomes the principle point of contact is illegal. Statistics given the general managers Monday showed there has been only one blindside hit that caused a concussion this season, down from four a year ago. Also, the number of suspensions levied for hits to the head has nearly doubled from a year ago -- 14 suspensions so far this season, eight in all of last season.
The league's study found accidental concussions have nearly doubled this season from last season. The number of man games lost to accidental concussions is up five-fold.
Legal hits account for 44 percent of this season's reported concussions and 32 percent of the concussion-related man games lost. That is a 10 percent drop.
Illegal hits have accounted for 17 percent of the reported concussions in the 2010-11 season and the percentage of man games lost due to illegal hits is down significantly -- from 41 percent to 17 percent, the study found.