Gretzky: NHL taking right approach to head shots

Wayne Gretzky says the NHL has done a good job of tackling the

head-shot issue.

”I like how the NHL approaches things now,” Gretzky told The

Canadian Press on Thursday.

”They always put together committees or groups and they try to

analyze it and figure out the best way that they’re going to keep

the game exciting and yet try to protect the players. They try to

do the best they can to stay on top of things like that. ”That’s

all you can ask for.”

Gretzky says people don’t always know the right answers, ”but

at least you can try to find them and that’s what they’re trying to


The controversial issue has been back in the spotlight with

superstar Sidney Crosby sidelined by a concussion. The Pittsburgh

captain hasn’t played in more than two weeks and will almost

certainly miss the NHL All-Star game in Raleigh, N.C., on Jan.


The NHL introduced Rule 48 before the season, giving referees

the ability to call a minor or major penalty for any ”lateral,

back pressure or blindside hit” where the principal point of

contact is the head. But it hasn’t reduced the number of


The finger has been pointed in many directions. Outspoken

”Hockey Night in Canada” commentator Don Cherry suggested

Wednesday that players don’t have enough respect for one another,

but Gretzky doesn’t share that opinion.

Gretzky, who retired in 1999, spent four years coaching the

Phoenix Coyotes and continues to watch a lot of games on

television. He thinks some notable differences in the game are

responsible for the rash of concussions.

”Part of the change is just the size of the players, the speed

of the players,” said Gretzky, who will celebrate his 50th

birthday next week. ”At the end of the day, all of these guys are

really good guys. They all have respect for each other, they all

have families of their own – nobody’s out there trying to give guys

concussions. Just the game has gotten bigger and faster, and in

some ways stronger.”

It’s tough to say how many concussions Gretzky may have

sustained during his career because the awareness of the injury

wasn’t what it is today. However, he was diagnosed with a ”minor

concussion” after getting knocked out cold by a hit shortly after

joining the St. Louis Blues in 1996.

Gretzky can identify with Crosby’s position in the recent

debate, with many urging the young star to speak out strongly on

the issue.

”You’re going to find when you’re a Crosby or a (Gordie) Howe

or a (Mario) Lemieux – you’re going to get caught in those

positions,” Gretzky said. ”You can ask 500 players their opinion

and all people want to hear is the one guy’s opinion. He says all

the right things and does all the right stuff. I’m sure he’s going

to say the right things.”