Gretzky backs NHL concussion spotter program

PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) Wayne Gretzky applauded the use of centralized concussion spotters as part of the NHL's effort to better protect players.

''When I played - one of my kids asked me if I ever got a concussion - I can honestly tell you I don't even know,'' said Gretzky, who was representing the Edmonton Oilers as a partner and vice-chairman. ''Because in those days they'd say, `Take two aspirin tonight, tomorrow you're going to skate for an hour and we're going to sweat it out of you.' That's what we did.''

Gretzky spoke Friday as league owners and its Board of Governors wrapped up two days of meetings. It was his first board meeting since leaving the Arizona Coyotes in 2009.

The NHL this season began using concussion spotters located at a central location, watching on television, to help decide if a player should be pulled out of a game for a potential head injury. The league has not released details or results from the first two months of the season, though players have generally supported the move even as a class-action lawsuit is pending against the league over its handling of injured players.

NHL
Gretzky defends McDavid's outburst after star angered

''We have so much more knowledge now from the doctor side of thing, from the trainers, from the players themselves and yet there's so much more to learn about it,'' Gretzky said. ''''Is everybody perfectly happy when the best player gets pulled off? No. But it's protocol, that's what the rules are and you've got to live with it.''

Oilers star Connor McDavid recently took issue with being pulled off the ice after he tripped over Minnesota Wild forward Jared Spurgeon's stick and hit his chin on the ice. He reached up and grabbed his chin and that reaction was enough for the NHL's concussion spotter to call for him to be taken off.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the spotter protocol has been discussed by the board and will be again in the next couple of months.

''The reason you have the spotter program is exactly for the instances that people are talking about, because players typically, and you go back through the history of this, don't want to come out of a game,'' Bettman said. ''We think being cautious, having protocols and enforcing them is the best way to ensure it. Does that mean some players are going to get pulled who didn't have concussions? Sure. But it also means we're going to make sure the players who need to be off the ice are off the ice.''

• NHL's new concussion spotters have had spotty results so far

Bettman also said there was nothing new to report on whether NHL players will participate in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, one day after saying owners are "negative" about going because of concerns about expenses.

''I think after doing five of these, I don't know, fatigue might be a word (to describe it),'' Bettman said of the owners' reaction.

For his part, Gretzky said he hoped the league ultimately chose to attend.

''I'm a big believer in the Olympic Games,'' said Gretzky, who played in the 1998 Games and built the team that won gold. ''I happen to love everything about the Olympic Games.''

Notes: Mark Chipman of the Winnipeg Jets and Geoff Molson of the Montreal Canadiens were voted to the NHL's executive committee, replacing the late Ed Snider of the Philadelphia Flyers and Peter Karmanos of the Carolina Hurricanes.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.