After absorbing some media and fan backlash for his soft stance on concussions and fighting in hockey, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman talked openly with reporters about his concussion history and his ability to bounce back. Bettman has led the NHL into a bit of a resurgence in popularity as the game grapples with its darker side, and he made it clear he understands what is at stake.
“I was at summer camp back when I was 12 or 13,” Bettman said, flanked by the NHL doctors who have declared that the evidence against concussions is still inconclusive. “I had the top bunk and the last one in bed had to turn out the lights. So I go flying up my ladder, and I guess I went too fast because I whacked my head on the beam that ran across our cabin.”
Bettman said his head really hurt that night and he considered going to see his counselor. But he toughed it out and was able to make it to the swim platform the next day without assistance.
“We also used to have these wicked pillow fights,” Bettman added. “This one kid used to fake like he was going low and then pop me in the head every time. I know what our players are going through. I tell them this story every year and I say next time you get into a fight with John Scott or get knocked out by a blindside check, think about me and my camp experience. I turned out all right.”
A number of NHL players have been out this year with concussion-like symptoms, including Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. Bettman gave no indication if he had shared some of his pillow fighting defensive tactics with the perennial all-star forward.