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Air Canada calls NHL's five-point plan a 'step in the right direction'

Air Canada says the NHL's five-point plan to increase player safety is an improvement, but that more has to be done.

The airline threatened to pull its sponsorship of the league after Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara escaped suspension for his March 8 hit on Montreal's Max Pacioretty that sent the Canadiens forward to hospital with a concussion and a broken vertebra.

"It is a step in the right direction to get our national game to where it needs to be and to permit Air Canada to continue supporting NHL hockey," the airline said in a statement Friday.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was originally dismissive of the threat from Air Canada, but responded to the criticism by outlining the plan at this week's general managers' meetings in Florida.

The plan includes a 15-minute cool-down period in the locker-room for any player who suffers a head injury and an examination administered by a doctor.

The plan also holds organizations and coaches more accountable for the on-ice behaviour of players. The GMs called for stricter enforcement of boarding and charging penalties and heavier suspensions.

Air Canada came under fire in some hockey circles for its threat, but the airline adds the response has been mostly positive.

"We appreciate the numerous supportive emails and comments posted on this site or sent to our executives," the statement read. "The overwhelming majority view is that while hockey is a physical sport, the devastating consequences of dangerous head shots and career or life threatening concussions must, and can, be avoided."

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