CALGARY -- Far away from the clamour of the Max Pacioretty hit, the NHL almost lost another player to a stanchion Friday.
And Dean Lombardi of the Los Angeles Kings is heading to the GM meetings Monday intent on ensuring the league does what it can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Lombardi had trouble exhaling for a few moments after Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger hit Drew Doughty into a stanchion at the blueline in Columbus Friday, leaving the star defenceman writhing on the ice. Doughty, whose face ran into the stanchion, eventually got up and said after the game he was OK, but not before scaring Kings fans.
“Those things make you cringe,” Lombardi said.
“It does concern me. There are engineers who will tell you they can round them off as opposed to having a hard edge. There are enough dangers out there without having to worry about things we can take care of with technology. It’s probably the only sport where the playing surface has that type of minefield.”
Lombardi not only wants stanchions addressed, he also plans to float the possibility of eliminating the doors on player benches so players don’t run into an open gate.
“Should we eliminate the doors and make the players jump over like they always do anyways?” asked Lombardi of the issue he’ll raise in Boca Raton, Fla.
Edmonton Oilers forward Sam Gagner may disagree as his season ended last week when teammate Ryan Jones sliced a tendon in Gagner’s wrist when jumping over the boards.
At the very least, Lombardi is suggesting if any player runs into a bench door left ajar, the offending team would be penalized with a two minute penalty.
Lombardi said the bench door idea was tabled three years ago at the GM meetings but was quickly glossed over due to a heavy docket. Chances are the same will happen again this year with head shots and concussions slated to dominate the agenda.
Go ahead, Air Canada
A high-ranking official at Maple Leafs Sport and Entertainment said Saturday Air Canada’s threat to pull sponsorship is music to his ears.
“Tell the folks at Air Canada we’d be thrilled if they’d pull their name from our building,” he laughed, referring to the naming rights of the Air Canada Centre.
“We’d sell it for three times that much by the end of the week.”
In exchange, he said they’d also happily pull the $2 million they spend annually on Air Canada charter flights.
Air Canada currently pays $1.5 million annually for stadium naming rights — a deal that expires in 2019.
A minor problem
Despite the fact he’s in the minors Mike Commodore is still on the competition committee. For now, anyway. Mathieu Schneider is also on the five-player committee, meaning 40% of the players in the group don’t play in the NHL right now.
The committee, which has to approve any rule changes before they are instituted, also includes Blues forward David Backes, former Flame Chris Clark and Sabres netminder Ryan Miller.
Commodore, who was demoted by Columbus and now plays for the AHL Springfield Falcons, said he told Schneider he’d like to stay on unless someone else wants the job.
Commodore very much thinks — as do most players — that people need to calm down following the Zdeno Chara controversy and realize the game is not full of disrespect and headhunters.
“I think it’s a sensitive issue, but I thought we did a good job last year by adding Rule 48 (outlawing blindside hits to the head),” said Commodore, who is hoping to be back in the NHL next season.
“It’s a fast-paced game so every once in awhile, some things are going to happen. I’m not making excuses, but it’s not like this stuff has just started happening. It’s just that it’s the focus of the media now.”