SUN Hockey Pool

Safety top topic for GMs

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:38 AM ET

The agenda for this week’s GM meetings is full of items.

But you know what will dominate the discussions in Boca Raton, Fla.: Player safety, ranging from concussion levels and what can be done to alleviate the wave of injuries.

“There is a lengthy agenda, but I think this will be the dominant topic,” Flames acting GM Jay Feaster said before heading out for the sessions Monday through Wednesday.

“The whole concussion situation, there will be presentations from a medical standpoint. I expect we’ll discuss Rule 48 and how it’s been implemented.

“We’ll see the statistics as far as the blind-side hits down as a result of having Rule 48 in the books.

“And I think we’ll have an extended discussion on what other steps we can take to enhance player safety.”

For good reason, the NHL continues to take steps to make the game safer for its players.

However, those steps may be small and tentative at times, if at all.

But with Sidney Crosby still out of action due to a concussion suffered in early January and the Zdeno Chara-Max Pacioretty incident from last week drumming up more issues, it would seem the league may start becoming deadly serious about taking bold steps.

It’s hard to imagine the NHL will make it a penalty for any hit to the head in the near future, but that avenue is being championed, especially by Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford and Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier, or at least investigating the possibility.

“It was discussed at a board of governors meeting, and

I know from our organization’s perspective, that was something supported,” Feaster said. “Maybe we do have to look at that.”

Feaster wouldn’t discuss Chara’s hit on Pacioretty, a shove into the stanchion in Montreal which left the Canadiens forward with a fractured vertebra (“I don’t think there’s any use served by my weighing in”), but he knows it will be a big issue.

So will the impact of Rule 48, invoked a year ago to punish blind-side hits to the head.

“We’ll see the statistics on it, but I think what has happened is blind-side hits are down,” he said.

“Historically, when we take some rule-based action, there is — ultimately — a deterring effect, whatever that issue may be.

“I think that’s proven to be the case with Rule 48 and blind-side hits.”

The Chara hit has raised discussion regarding the placement of stanchions between benches and the padding around it.

As well, it’s reported there will no longer be seamless glass used along the end boards. Calgary’s rink is one of six still using that system, which is stiffer than plexiglass, but Feaster said he hadn’t heard whether that would be replaced.

As for his own team, Feaster is now in a new mode.

With the trade deadline in the past, he can’t make any moves for this season.

However, the work has begun preparing for the free-agent market.

“It’s something we’ve started with our pro guys identifying players and needs,” he said.

The Flames have a handful of pending unrestricted free-agents to deal with, notably forwards Alex Tanguay, Curtis Glencross and Brendan Morrison, and defenceman Anton Babchuk.

“We’re not any further along,” he said about those negotiations.


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