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NHL ignoring evidence about concussions says Winnipeg doctor-turned-MP

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman appears before the Commons Subcommittee on Sports-Related Concussions on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 1, 2019.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman appears before the Commons Subcommittee on Sports-Related Concussions on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 1, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

A Winnipeg member of Parliament (MP) says a Parliamentary committee’s meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman Wednesday on the issue of concussions in hockey didn’t fill him with confidence that the topic is being properly addressed.

Doug Eyolfson, MP for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, is also a physician, and he said his takeaway from Bettman’s testimony before the committee was that the commissioner isn’t considering the scientific evidence about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

READ MORE: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman balks at idea of banning head contact

“He’s got some very strong opinions and I’m not sure I agreed with a lot of them,” Eyolfson told 680 CJOB.

“He is standing his ground that he doesn’t believe it has been definitively established that there’s a link between head injuries and CTE and he also has very strong opinions that fighting still has a place in hockey.

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“I believe that Mr. Bettman is not truly appreciative of the bulk of scientific evidence that makes the connection. We had a number of experts saying that there is a connection and there needs to be better prevention for head injuries.”

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Eyolfson said going into the meeting he didn’t know what to expect from Bettman, but it became very clear early on that the commissioner was unwilling to budge from his position that no changes were needed.

MP Doug Eyolfson is also a physician.
MP Doug Eyolfson is also a physician. Liberal Party of Canada

“There needs to be changes,” said Eyolfson.

“They have the power to make rules, whatever rules they think are important for the health and safety of players, and they could make stronger rules and sanctions against hits to the head.”

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READ MORE: NHL, ex-players reach tentative settlement in concussion lawsuit

One of the biggest concerns, Eyolfson said, is for young players who emulate NHL stars and are inspired by what they see on the ice – including violence.

Despite Bettman’s firm position, he said the meeting was still a worthwhile endeavour, as it draws public attention to the problem.

“I think it brought out into the public that the league is being questioned and called out for their stance on head injuries,” he said.

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“It’s one thing to say that his first priority, by his job description, is to the owners, but those players are essentially employees. The heads of any organization are responsible for the health and safety of their employees.”

WATCH: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says ban on head contact ‘impossible to enforce’

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says ban on head contact ‘impossible to enforce’
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says ban on head contact ‘impossible to enforce’
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