BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) - The NHL is adopting a more rigorous protocol for examining players with possible concussions.
Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the new steps Monday following the first session of this week's NHL general managers' meetings. GMs are looking at ways to combat a rise in head injuries.
Under the new protocol, any player showing concussion symptoms must be examined by a doctor in the locker room. Until now, an examination on the bench by a trainer was the minimum requirement.
Bettman said the league also will study using smaller equipment and making the playing area safer. He said other rule changes might emerge from the meetings, which conclude Wednesday.
"There's no one single thing causing concussions," Bettman said. "There is no magic bullet to deal with this. I know that it's an emotional, intense subject, particularly for our fans. We get it. But dealing with this issue is not something you can do whimsically or emotionally. You really have to understand what's going on."
As their meetings began, general managers were given the results of a two-year statistical study of NHL concussions, and they watched video of nearly all of the concussions this season. According to the study, 44 percent of the concussions have resulted from legal hits, 26 percent from accidental hits, 17 percent from illegal hits and 8 percent from fighting. The cause of 5 percent couldn't be determined.
"This notion that the players have no respect for each other, and they're going around hitting each other in the head on a regular basis, and that's what's causing all the concussions just isn't accurate," Bettman said.
As in other sports, concussions have become a subject of considerable debate in hockey. Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby has been sidelined since January because of a concussion, and last week's severe injury to Montreal's Max Pacioretty prompted more calls for rule changes to address the problem.
Bettman said he's not concerned about losing sponsors because of concussions, even though Air Canada told the NHL it is considering withdrawing its support unless the league tightens rules.
"I believe the people at Air Canada are fans of the game, and their concerns about player safety are no different than our concerns about player safety," Bettman said.