• On head injuries and potentially revising the NHL’s concussion protocol: “There’s a protocol, but if we have to sideline a player every time there’s a hit to the head — and you’ve seen what happens in the playoffs — there’d be 10 guys in the quiet room on each team. Punches after the whistle, you see those left and right, hits to the head happen on every play. It’s just that if there’s a sign that a guy has a concussion, if there’s a sign that he’s shaken up, we’ll take him out.”
This segment of the press conference was arresting. A NHL GM explains that during every play, after every play, during every scrum, a player gets hit in the head, whether it's an elbow or crosscheck or punch. Because of that, it's impossible to send a player to the quiet room every time there's a blow to the head, since, as he continued, "you'd have ten guys in that room for each team."
His conclusion, after giving assurances that he has full confidence in his medical team, and that if the league decides to go to an independent observer he's comfortable with that too, was still that the protocol only kicks in when a player has symptoms of concussion.
For Marc Bergevin, a player gets checked out by a doctor when he has been knocked out or staggered or took a blow to the head that made him woozy. Not if he takes a blow to the head, but was "fine".
I have nothing but respect and affection for the current Canadien GM, but this mindset is a few years behind the current research and best practices. According to concussion care and prevention guidelines you can find online easily, from reputable sources.
If there is "a sign that a player has a concussion", that means there is a symptom, which means that there has indeed been a concussion, which means that the player should be taken out of the game. Period. And not come back. And not return to action or to the bench like Dale Weise last season after the hit by John Moore. Or like Nathan, possibly, after the hit by Erik Karlsson.
The 'quiet room', the evaluation by doctors, that process doesn't overrule the initial symptoms that the player displayed. If Dale Weise can't stand up, to the point that P.K. has to grab him and hold him upright so he doesn't fall down, if Dale has Bambi legs, he has suffered a concussion. No matter how clear-headed he feels afterwards when examined by doctors, no matter how much he pleads that he's okay and wants to go back in.
He can't be okay after showing these symptoms, and the fact that a concussion occurred can't be ruled out. The sign is the symptom, which is the evidence that the concussion occurred. Where there's smoke there's fire. Where there's a sign there's a concussion.
And the best care in these cases is to immediately cease activity, and avoid exposure to noise or bright lights. Not to sit on a player bench as a decoy to the other team.
But even beyond that huge problem, that shows to me that either the NHL concussion protocol doesn't follow the best practices I can find online from the Center for Disease Control or the Mayo Clinic or American Academy of Neurology, or that the Canadiens medical team or its General Manager and coaches don't understand it, is the primary cause described in the first quote.
The NHL fully accepts that guys will receive blows to the head in scrums, punches to the "side and to the back of the head", and there's really nothing they can or will do about it. It's the cost of doing business. Standard operating procedure. Even though the rules as written in its own rulebook could easily deal with all these 'unavoidable', routine blows to the head.
When a player rabbit punches Sidney Crosby in the head, when a Marc Méthot jabs a recently-concussed Max Pacioretty in the head, that's an act of God. It's impossible to prevent. Skate blades are sharp, players will sometimes get cut. And players have fists and have used them in the past and will use them in the future.
The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening, there's nothing we can do about it, or even understand why, according to Bill O'Reilly.
What madness is this?
If I'm a lawyer and am about to represent Sidney Crosby and Max Pacioretty and David Perron and countless others in Round 3 of the concussion class action lawsuit against the NHL, and the league argues that the players knew the risks, I'm going to counter with this quote from Marc Bergevin. This will be the smoking gun, that the league knew its players were getting bashed in the head routinely, and did nothing about it. Even though its own rulebook, which should be a big part of its health and safety protocol, specifically proscribe all these blows, and the manner in which they're delivered.
Monsieur Bergevin, I give you big props for the work you've done, the energy and attitude you've injected into the team, the brain trust you've surrounded yourself with, the kind of team and organization you've built and continue to build.
But on this topic, you're a fullblown dunderhead. You don't get it, you don't understand the concussion protocol, or the need to radically improve it. Which means you haven't put in the effort, because you're not a dummy.
Further, this means that you're a part of the problem, part of the old guard, as much as Brian Burke or Jeremy Jacobs and Don Cherry and P.J. Stock.
So things aren't about to change. I better understand that now.
And why when a Zdeno Chara punches a Sidney Crosby in the mouth the first game after the latter removes his faceshield to protect his recently fractured jaw, after play ends, during a scrum, that the offender gets away with it.
Marc Bergevin, unfortunately, is one of the proverbial frogs swimming in the pot of water being slowly brought to a boil. He can't feel the temperature rising, immersed as he is in his environment.