TORONTO — The issue of concussions and player injuries moved to the forefront Tuesday on the second day of the world hockey summit.
Philadelphia Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette and Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s vice-president of hockey and business affairs, were on the panel for the player skill development session at the Air Canada Centre.
They were joined by Dr. Mark Aubry, the chief medical officer of the International Ice Hockey Federation, who said a proactive approach is required at all levels so players don’t come back too early after suffering head injuries. He said recent studies and reports on the severity of concussions have helped the process.
"I think it makes us stand up and look at those (reports) and say, ‘OK, what are we doing?"’ Aubry said. "When is the number of concussions too many in allowing that young player to return to play?"
Aubry has helped organize several symposiums on concussions over his long career. He said injury numbers have risen significantly at the peewee level when many kids get their first exposure to bodychecking.
"We’re exposing these kids to an increased risk of injury at an age where I think we should still be talking about skill development and having fun," Aubry said. "That’s where I think that hopefully things may change in the future."
The debate on when to have young players start bodychecking — or whether to have it at all — was one of the livelier topics of discussion. Coaching styles, equipment changes and player safety concerns were also discussed.
Steve Norris, a doctor who has worked with Hockey Canada for the past 15 years, started the session by discussing athlete development and the behaviour and growth of young players. Panellists spoke for about 90 minutes before taking a few questions from media members, a former player and a few of the delegates in attendance.
Bob Boughner, president of the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires, said he was hopeful the sport will see some results from the summit at some point down the road.
"You’d like to hope there are some ideas that spark some thought and maybe some decision making," Boughner said. "But for the things said today, are things going to change tomorrow? Probably not. But hopefully they’ll be part of future discussions."
Some USA Hockey and Hockey Canada officials rounded out the panel. A few hundred people were on hand for the morning session, including several NHL general managers, international hockey officials, agents and players. Among those in attendance were Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, national women’s hockey coach Melody Davidson and Canadian Hockey League president David Branch.
IIHF president Rene Fasel was scheduled to hold a question-and-answer session in the afternoon. The four-day event kicked off Monday night at the Hockey Hall of Fame with panel discussions.