The NHL has taken its lumps at times when it comes to its treatment of players suspected of being concussed.
Many outside the Pittsburgh Penguins circle, for example, have wondered how captain Sidney Crosby could have been allowed to play the next game after being hit by David Steckel, then of the Washington Capitals, in the Winter Classic on New Year's Day.
Crosby travelled, then was hit by Tampa's Victor Hedman in the next game. After arriving in Montreal, he was diagnosed with a concussion that has kept him out since, though the prospect of his return this season looks positive.
If the NHL's new concussion protocol was in place, might Crosby have been diagnosed after the Steckel hit, a blow his agent, Pat Brisson, has said started Crosby's problems?
Under the new protocol, approved by the NHL at the GMs' meetings two weeks ago, Crosby probably would have been removed from the bench area and been assessed by a doctor in a quiet room for up to 15 minutes.
Taking players suspected of being concussed away from the bench to be assessed by a doctor, and not just a trainer, is a step in the right direction for player safety, said one of Canada's foremost neurosurgeons and concussion experts.
"That's the one thing that resonated most with me," Dr. Charles Tator, a pioneer in the research and treatment of brain trauma, told QMI Agency. "The diagnosis of a concussion is quite difficult and the NHL is coming to grips with that. I do it in my office, evaluating the person for an hour. I think this is definitely a step in the right direction."
Dr. Tator, the founder of ThinkFirst, an organization that is one of the leaders in brain injury prevention and concussion education, will be speaking on the topic of concussions in hockey Tuesday night in Toronto. It will be part of a panel discussion on the occasion of the release of SMART HOCKEY, the updated version of a video ThinkFirst has been producing for 20 years.
After hearing from and writing about minor hockey parents and players whose lives have been profoundly affected by concussions, this sounds like must-viewing for anyone involved in the game.
Tuesday night's event will feature a panel discussion led by Cassie Campbell-Pascall, the former Olympian and captain of Team Canada who now works for Hockey Night in Canada. She'll be joined by Dr. Tator, former Team Canada teammate Tessa Bonhomme and ex-NHLer Keith Primeau, whose career was ended by concussions. He's agreed to donate his brain to researchers who are studying the long-term effects of repeated concussions on athletes. The premiere of the video will follow the panel discussion at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto.
The good news for everybody else across the country is the new video, which will help educate players on how to hopefully prevent concussions and how to recognize them if one occurs, will be available at no cost on the organization's website, think-first.ca.It's available in both official languages and features Bonhomme and Team Canada's Caroline Ouellette, John Tavares of the New York Islanders, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins and Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabres.
Dr. Tator said a health-care professional should always be the one to diagnose a concussion, "but we want everybody to know how to suspect a concussion."
The new video will be worth checking out.
If you're a player, you owe it to yourself and your opponents.
If you're a parent, you owe it to your kids.