Bettman: Concussions down so far this season

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman indicated fewer concussions have occurred in the league so far this season, but wouldn’t reveal any numbers.

Bettman credited the players and NHL vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan for the decrease on Wednesday, wrapping up the three-day general managers’ meeting.

”We think concussions are down and we think that’s in large measure because of the work that Brendan has been doing and the players have been getting it,” Bettman said. ”We think we’re heading in the right direction.”

Bettman wouldn’t disclose how many fewer concussions from last year, preferring to reveal the information after the season. He said the GMs didn’t discuss the issue, which had been a major topic at previous meetings.

They did talk about two small changes to handling faceoffs. Players who previously were ejected for a faceoff violation may just have to take a step back. They recommended following the Olympic model on hash marks, moving them from 3 feet to 5 feet to prevent fighting on the wings of the faceoff circle.

In overtime, the GMs suggested making teams defend the net that is farther away from their bench.

The recommendations will be offered to the competition committee in June for consideration.

They also debated limiting teams from holding their own combines beyond the official NHL scouting combine. The group reached a consensus, but made no official recommendation.

The prevailing opinion is it’s acceptable for a team to bring a player in for medical exams or a wine-and-dine, but to bring a player in for physical and on-ice testing is an unfair advantage for bigger-budget franchises.

”The whole purpose of the combine in the first place was to eliminate 30 teams doing different things with young players, because you could have young players going to 30 different cities to do these tests,” said George McPhee, the Washington Capitals general manager.

Tim Murray, the new Buffalo general manager and former Ottawa assistant general manager, became a proponent of individual team combines when the Sabres organization explained to him the benefits of holding their own recent combine for 85 players.

Murray said he expects the league combine will eventually be held in Buffalo, which is building a new complex. He admitted he was on the minority side of the issue.

”I lost,” Murray said. ”It was spirited. Some of the veteran guys said `you fought a great battle,’ but it was a losing battle.”