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Gary Bettman begins testimony explaining moves NHL has taken to make game safer.
He says NHL was first league in 1997 to introduce mandatory neurological baseline testing for players.
Also says NHL was first pro league to adopt league-wide electronic medical records system.
Bettman says the NHL’s concussion spotter system includes one spotter watching players for visible signs of concussion from NHL office while a second spotter watches from the arena stands.

(NHL does not identify spotters and the NHLPA refuses to b/c they are league employees.)
Bettman talks about NHL’s return to play protocols and says team doctors have the ability to clear players to return to games.
(At least one NHL team doctor has been concerned about this, claiming some team docs employ “situational ethics.”)

Bettman shares how players are educated by the NHL on issues related to brain injuries.
(Brings to mind our story last year documenting how an NHL lawyer requested a dementia warning be removed from a warning poster in NHL locker rooms.)

Ken Dryden has lobbied the NHL to penalise all hits to the head.
Bettman says that’s not doable if the NHL “is to be maintained as a physical, contact sport."
Gary Bettman is asked by Liberal MP Darren Fisher if he still denies a link between repeated brain trauma and the brain-withering disease CTE.

“Other than some anecdotal evidence, there has not been that conclusive link… there has not been conclusive determinations."
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly mentions that players who are slow to get up off the ice after colliding with the end boards or rink glass are now required to be removed from games for medical evaluation.
Bettman addresses fighting in the NHL. He says 85 per cent of regular season games the year were fight free, the highest percentage since 1964-65.
NHL players over the past five years have averaged 2.6 concussions per season b/c of fighting, he says.
The NHL and NHLPA are producing a safety video aimed at youth hockey players.
Perhaps sentiments have changed since 2014 when NHL exec Gary Meagher wrote in an email the NHL “has never been in the business of making the game safer on all levels.”

Bettman is asked about incident last night when Boston forward Brad Marchand punched Blue Jackets D Scott Harrington in back of the head.

“That play should have been penalised. Sometimes things are missed on the ice. Our officials must have the most difficult job in sports."
Bettman says Marchand has been warned by the NHL's dept of player safety and Marchand's behaviour is repeated, "he should look forward to a suspension."
Bettman is asked whether any concerns raised by the families of NHL players are not addressed.

"We try to address them all... Sometimes we get requests for help and the player isn’t interested in it… We view ourselves as a family."
Bettman going back and forth now with MP Doug Eyolfson, who condemns fighting in NHL games.
Eyolfson: “If 15% of games have fighting, that’s 15% too many. This is an act that is a criminal act in any other setting. This could be removed from NHL hockey with the stroke of a pen."
Bettman: “People believe [fighting is] an important thermostat.”
He says the threat of fighting ensures a certain level of conduct on the ice.
Liberal MP James Maloney jokes the NHL should lock Don Cherry & Ken Dryden in a room until they have a solution re fighting in hockey.
Then Maloney gets serious. “You don’t need to be a doctor to know repeated blows to the head are likely to cause long term brain damage."
Bettman is asked whether investing in brain injury research might help his legacy as commissioner.
“We do research but our research is on identifying and treating concussions. We’re not a medical facility, not a scientific facility."
Bettman is asked to respond to Nick Boynton’s Players Tribune story about how fighting has affected his mental health.

Bettman: “There’s no shortage of opinion on this subject.”

Bettman: "If you don’t want to fight, you can walk away from a fight…. Probably I’d say 75 or 76% of our players never engage In a fight. The extent that do maybe it’s one fight a season… If you don’t want to fight you don’t have to."
In a press scrum afterwards, Bettman said he would not retract his public statements about Todd Ewen, whose case Bettman has used to cast doubt on a link between repeated brain injuries and CTE.
Bettman cited the lawsuit filed Tuesday by Kelli Ewen.
I asked Bettman why the NHL refuses to identify its concussion spotters. Doing so would add transparency, credibility and accountability to its program.
Bettman refused to answer.

"Let me take some other questions. You don't get to dominate, Rick."
Reflecting on today's hearing, I was surprised and impressed how many MPs asked direct, skeptical questions of Gary Bettman.
He was challenged more than once.
Some clearly did their homework and learned the stories of Nick Boynton, Steve Montador, Derek Boogaard, and others.
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