Around the Rink – NHL SuperSkills Edition

RALEIGH – Our plane touched down with little time to spare.

The goal was to make it to the RBC Center by the start of the Honda NHL SuperSkills competition. After landing, I ran through the airport, hailed a cab, grabbed my credential at the arena and successfully maneuvered through an unfamiliar setting.

Like with the players, the NHL All-Star Game serves a reunion for club employees and the media. Thus, walking into the media workroom is somewhat similar to a High School reunion … with more makeup. There was Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated, Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times, Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com and Barry Melrose sporting the second best hairdo in the National Hockey League.

Many of the players have used this opportunity to spend time with their families, including our own Nicklas Lidstrom, who had his children on the red carpet and in the locker room during the SuperSkills festivities.

In addition to the All-Star hubbub, the Red Wings have launched a page specific to fans from the Southeastern United States. The Hockeytown Southeast page is a way for out-of-market fans to meet, connect with each other and hopefully interact in person at arenas and bars across the Southeast.

Over the coming weeks, this page will include new, Hockeytown Southeast specific content, giveaways and prizes, including a contest for a role as guest moderator with the ability to post his or her blog content on the site.

Visit www.facebook.com/hockeytownsoutheast to join the group.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met with the media prior to the NHL SuperSkills event. Here are a few quotes from his press conference.

On the All-Star Game as an event …
“There is a buzz. There is a sense of energy around this All-Star Weekend and all of the events. And I want to specifically acknowledge at this point the good work, great work of our Hockey Operations department, particularly Colin Campbell and Brendan Shanahan, because they reinvented and energized certain aspects of the weekend and the intention to make this fun for the players and fun for our fans.”

On concussions …
“Obviously this is an important matter, and we have treated it as such for years and we will continue to treat it as an important matter. In 1997 we were the first professional sports league to start a working group for the study of concussions. It included the Players’ Association, physicians, trainers.

We were the first sport to mandate neuropsychological baseline testing. We have also mandated changes to the rules. We have mandated changes to equipment. We have mandated changes to the playing environment. All designed to increase player safety.

By the way, the Concussion Working Group happened to meet yesterday as well in its regularly scheduled meeting. We were also the first professional sports league to implement diagnosis and return-to-play protocols.

We are, for better or for worse, and unfortunately, I suppose, because we have to deal with concussions at all, when it comes to concussion evaluation and management protocol, we have experience, and we will continue to be proactive in this area.

What I’m about to say is based on very preliminary data so you can’t hold me to it down the road with precision, because we have to make sure it bears out. But I do want to emphasize what appear to be preliminary trends. For the 2010-11 regular season concussions are up. Again, I want to emphasize it’s preliminary.

The increase in concussions appears to be in the area of accidental or inadvertent situations, as most did not involve any contact whatsoever with the victim’s head by an opponent.

I’m not saying that no concussions came from hits to the head. But it appears that the increase is coming from somewhere else.

And so what do I mean by inadvertent or accidental? We’ve seen players suffer concussions this season when they’ve stumbled into the boards or other players without any contact at all. We’ve seen players suffer concussions when struck by pucks in the head.

We’ve seen players concussed when they collide with teammates, and when they were hit legally and without head contact after which their heads have struck either the ice or the boards or the glass.

The biggest increase in instances of concussion this season, and the biggest increase in man games lost is from these types of so-called accidental or inadvertent contact.

Let me try and say this in a slightly different way. So with regard to head hits, since the implementation of Rule 48 last March, that’s the blindside lateral head hit rule, we’ve seen a decrease in concussions and man games lost resulting from blindside hits to the head.

In addition, we have seen a decrease in concussions caused by hits involving the head that are deemed legal in our game. With respect to hits to the body, this year we have seen an increase in concussions from hits to the body that have resulted in the head having secondary contact with the glass, boards or ice.

With regard to fighting, the number of concussions and man games lost due to fighting has increased. And finally, with regard to accidental or inadvertent collisions, the number of concussions caused by accidental plays on the ice and inadvertent collisions with an opponent has more than doubled year to year and has resulted in a threefold increase in man games lost.

Again, this is preliminary. Some of it is judgmental. Some of it is definitional, but we think on a preliminary basis this is the way things are trending.”

On the Nabokov situation…
“I don’t think it’s typical for the league to get involved between a club and a player when a player is refusing to render the services called for under his standard player contract. That now is an issue between the player and the team.

The player signed his contract knowing that he had to clear the waiver procedure. Those are the rules. Everybody knew them going in. And I don’t want to make this any more complicated or any worse, but the Yashin situation obviously will be a precedent when a player, any player, isn’t rendering the services called for under his contract.

I assume the team will take the position that the contract tolls.”

Got to get some rest. Big day of All-Star festivities tomorrow!

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About Jake Duhaime

Social Networking Manager for the Detroit Red Wings
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