NHL commissioner Gary Bettman praises effectiveness of concussion spotter program

PALM BEACH, Florida - NHL commissioner Gary Bettman expects a review of the NHL's concussion spotter program at the next board meeting, during All-Star week in late January, but he praised the effectiveness of the program so far this season.

He said he received no concerns from his ownership group about how the concussion spotter program, bulked up this season with centralized spotters in the New York player safety room, has been implemented.

"Actually, everybody thinks the spotter program is working great, just as it was intended," Bettman said.

Wayne Gretzky spoke Friday after attending his first board meeting since leaving the then-Phoenix Coyotes in 2009. He 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," Gretzky said.?"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.

"We have so much more knowledge now from the doctor side of things, 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."

There was criticism of the program recently after Edmonton's Connor McDavid was pulled from a game against the Wild on Sunday when he was tripped and his chin hit the ice.

McDavid and some of his teammates weren't happy he was pulled from the game for concussion testing, tests he passed. There have also been concerns raised about putting in a backup goalie without proper warm-up if a starting goalie is removed by a concussion spotter.

As more high-profile cases emerge and the games increase in importance as the playoffs move closer, the debate will likely get louder. But that's exactly why the program is in place, Bettman said.

"The reason you have the spotter program is exactly for the instances the people are talking about because players typically ... 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."

The second day of the NHL's board of governors meetings passed without major news emerging. According to Bettman, the session was filled with routine informational updates, on issues like the centennial celebration, relationships with television rights holders and a World Cup wrap-up.

"Everybody in the room believes, as do we, that we were able to re-establish this event in a very big way, major way," Bettman said of the World Cup. "There are a variety of things we're focused on to do it even better the next time we do it, whenever that might be. I think people were pleased with it."

The NHL also filled out its executive committee, adding Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson and Winnipeg co-owner Mark Chipman to the committee in place of the late Ed Snider and Carolina owner Peter Karmanos.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.?