EDMONTON – NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is promising the league will take a serious look at hits to the head during the general managers’ meeting in March, but he’s not interested in a quick fix to the growing problem.
Bettman said the league is looking for a precise solution in the wake of disturbing recent incidents like Patrice Cormier’s elbow to the head of Mikael Tam during a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League game. Cormier’s hit, which sent Tam to hospital, made national headlines.
“This issue for us is what can we do about what is otherwise a legal check resulting in a shoulder going into a head,” he said. “We have studied it very carefully and extensively. We want to get it right. We average 40 hits a game. That’s somewhere in excess of 50,000 a year. It’s an essential element to our game.
“We want to get those hits that make us uncomfortable out of the game. But we want to do this in a very judicious, professional way.”
Bettman cautioned that finding a solution could take time.
“We need to take the time and create a very precise standard, something that’s easily understood and something the players know what to expect,” he said. “Something that the officials know what to call and if necessary Colin Campbell knows how he’s going to discipline.
“We’re looking for precision. Not over-legislation. We will have ample time in March and hopefully we can come to some sort of consensus.”
Bettman also addressed the spat between Vancouver forward Alex Burrows and referee Stephane Auger, saying he was satisfied with the way the league handled Burrows’ accusations that he was targeted by the official, and subsequent fine for Burrows’ public criticism of Auger.
The commissioner also repeated his support for a new rink to be built in Edmonton’s downtown.
“I think it’s very important to this franchise,” he said. “This is the second oldest arena in this league and if this team is going to be successful long term, they need an arena. There’s no question about it. With the lease expiring in 2014, people need to focus on the need for a new arena.”
As for Edmonton’s on-ice troubles, Bettman said teams are bound to go through a tough year now and again.
“The draft is the annual right of renewal,” he said. “Teams have trying seasons get better. Teams go through this. Only six teams have been to the Stanley Cup finals since the lockout. The Oilers are one of them. Lets not be too harsh.”