"Hockey is inherently a dangerous game and fighting is part of hockey and there will be dangers associated with that. Having said that, if you can look at the game, keep its basic integrity and still make it safer for the players, that's something we should always endeavor to do. That's what the exercise is this week."
-- Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly on fighting
All of the League's executives, including Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and V.P. and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell are heavily involved in the discussions as well.
Daly took a few moments out of his busy morning to discuss many of the topics on the agenda with NHL.com. Here is what he had to say:
NHL.com: Fighting is the hot-button topic in the hockey world these days. Does the League have any particular stance on the topic at hand and where you stand on it?
Bill Daly: "That's what I think is going to be explored. Hockey is inherently a dangerous game and fighting is part of hockey and there will be dangers associated with that. Having said that, if you can look at the game, keep its basic integrity and still make it safer for the players, that's something we should always endeavor to do. That's what the exercise is this week."
NHL.com: Going forward, will there then be something that can be done on the quote-unquote staged fights? Is there a way to police that? Can we leave it in the hands of the officials, up to their discretion?
BD: "I think that's one of the questions that will be considered and talked about this week. I think that introduces some challenges that the managers may not want to deal with at this point, and I don't know the answer to that question because we haven't had the full discussion in the big group with those issues. It will be interesting to hear (Tuesday) what they think of the subject."
NHL.com: (NHLPA Executive Director) Paul Kelly said they have proposed a new rule on hits to the head. From the League's perspective, what do you think of the proposal and is it something that should continue to be discussed and thought about?
BD: "It's obviously something that our managers have focused on before as well. We had a very thorough discussion on hits to the head, being tougher on hits to the head and penalizing hits to the head going back to the summer of 2007. (The NHLPA) had some suggested language, but I'm not really sure if it's just a variation of some things that our group, the manager group, talked about two summers ago. Again, head injuries are a tough part of our business and something we should be taking steps to minimize. They will always be the result of a contact sport like hockey, but to the extent we can take steps to minimize the number of head injuries we should be doing it."
NHL.com: The players seem genuinely enthused about playing in the Olympics after 2010. I wonder if you could answer a question on what the League's thought is on that right now?
BD: "You know what, we don't have any preconceived notions on that subject. It was something that we were committed to as a result of our collective bargaining agreement in Torino in 2006 and 2010 in Vancouver. It's something that we decided a long time ago that we wouldn't make any decisions on until we go through the Vancouver experience, see what transpires there. I can say there were some things associated with the 2006 Games that didn't leave necessarily a positive impression on our clubs and I would suspect that those things can be corrected and they might be different in Vancouver and people might have a totally different view with regards to Olympic participation at that point. But, I don't think it's fair really even to gauge what clubs' views are on the Olympics until after 2010 to see how that experience goes."
NHL.com: Do you find it better to have the GM Meetings after the trade deadline as opposed to before?
BD: "Well, it's a first for me and for us since I have been at the League. It's really too early to tell. It's only one day in and we didn't really have much of a discussion within the broader group today. I think clearly there are some benefits to it. The managers were of the view last year when we decided to change it, with the stresses and time commitments leading into trade deadline, the managers meeting and the managers agenda doesn't get the full attention that it might if you did it after the trade deadline. That was the rationale on them moving it, so we'll see."
NHL.com: In Chicago at the one-day GM Meetings there was a lot discussed on the medical procedures and standards in the wake of the Alexei Cherepanov incident in Russia, with specific regards to the echocardiogram and the electrocardiogram. Was there or will there be anything discussed on that topic here?
BD: "Yes, I think we're going to report on those issues. That is something we have discussed with both our health management panel and our team physician society. There is a real split of opinion on the subject on whether an echocardiogram is the right thing to do, much less a wise thing to do, and it has to do with the amount of players you might end up disqualifying who might not have real heart conditions. There are false positive implications and the like. It is a product of a lot of debate in the medical community now so I'll report to the general managers either (Tuesday) or Wednesday on where we sit with the issue."
NHL.com: Is there anything new on the NHL Premiere games in Europe going forward, or are we just focused on 2009 right now?
BD: "At some point we'd like to be focused on a much longer-term horizon. We had some challenges this year in terms of the lateness of making the decisions we needed to make for a variety of reasons. We would have liked to have more teams going to Europe to open the season next year, but as it turns out we're going to open in two cities with four teams again. I would expect that we'll continue that and maybe expand it as we move forward. Obviously the World Cup of Hockey is an international opportunity that we're focused on going back to at some point. We're in discussions with the players association and we have an agreement to move forward on that. Hopefully we can stage a World Cup as early as 2011."
BD: "I think the current contemplation is we would keep it in the same time window as we have had it in the past, which would make it before training camp, during training camp time period as opposed to shutting down the season to accommodate a February World Cup. It is something the players association raised for the first time to us, the manager group, (Monday) morning. We're always happy to have that discussion, but it raises a lot of challenges. It raises a lot of the same challenges the Olympic break raises, quite frankly, which I think would make it difficult to accommodate.
Contact Dan Rosen at email@example.com