Concussions shake up the NHL

Daniel Briere left the Philadelphia Flyers’ afternoon game with brain pain of his own. (MARTIN...

Daniel Briere left the Philadelphia Flyers’ afternoon game with brain pain of his own. (MARTIN CHEVALIER/QMI Agency)

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:20 PM ET

Long before Hockey Night in Canada even hit the air, Saturday was another day of headaches for the NHL.

Winnipeg Jets’ Evander Kane showed up at the rink with an aching melon and was diagnosed with a concussion mere hours before Daniel Briere left the Philadelphia Flyers’ afternoon game with brain pain of his own.

This on the same day Marc Savard held a media availability in Boston, suggesting it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever play hockey again.

Heck, at times he can’t even remember leaving his car keys in his ignition.

Earlier this week, video surfaced with Chris Pronger’s wife saying her husband still hasn’t had consecutive “good” days.

And then there’s the latest from Sidney Crosby, who is now seeing a neurological spine specialist best known for not only being on the U.S. Olympic team’s medical staff but for helping Jennifer Grey win Dancing with the Stars.

A miracle worker, indeed.

Briere is the sixth Flyers player to suffer a concussion this year, and the Pittsburgh Penguins now have 11 concussions from nine players over the last 12 months. Of course, we all know about Sidney Crosby.

With the speed, size and violent collisions in today’s game, obviously, there are going to be more days like these.

And while the league could still tweak its approach on supplementary discipline as well as its policies on shoulder and elbow pads, not a whole lot more could be done to stop what has clearly become, yawn, the No. 1 issue in the game.

Fact is concussions are the cost of doing business in today’s NHL.

And while the carnage is unacceptable to many, business itself has never been better for the NHL.

LID LIFTING DEBATE

Interesting note on the new debate over whether players should wear helmets in warmups: The NHL quietly approached then-NHLPA head Paul Kelly in 2008 to ask if the players would consider doing shootouts without their helmets, with an eye on better marketing the players.

Kelly took it to his membership, and the discussion didn’t go very far as it was still considered dangerous to do so.

What’s more dangerous? A one-on-one shootout with one puck? Or a warmup with 40 players and 40 pucks flying around the ice surface?

NOT MILLER TIME

With the Sabres doing their best impression of the shockingly dysfunctional Montreal Canadiens, many wonder if goaltender Ryan Miller will be one of the first to go when the team tries changing its culture.

The feeling around the league is that if the struggling Vezina goaltender is moved, it could only happen during the summer. Many executives figure it’s too complicated a deal to pull off mid-season.

Miller says he hasn’t asked for a trade, but it’s interesting to note he has a limited no-trade clause, which allows him to list just eight teams he won’t go to.

That leaves the Sabres with 21 teams they can move him and his US$6.25-million salary (for the next two years) to without his permission.

Fact is, of the top eight teams in either conference, only two really need goaltending: the Philadelphia Flyers and the Colorado Avalanche. Clearly the Flyers aren’t in the running for Miller.

Teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning could certainly look at Miller in the summer.

FIVE-RING TALK

IIHF president Rene Fasel will meet with Gary Bettman and Bill Daly Jan. 30-31 in New York to discuss the NHL’s participation in the upcoming Olympics. That said, such decisions will ultimately be made during CBA negotiations between the league and the players. Fasel met with the NHLPA, Hockey Canada and USA Hockey in Calgary a few weeks ago during the world junior hockey championship.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ericfrancis

Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.


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