Toronto neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Tator says Don Cherry's promotion of aggressive hockey leads to injuries. ((CBC))

A Toronto neurosurgeon speaking at a Regina seminar about concussions in hockey says the promotion of an aggressive style of play by commentators like Don Cherry is contributing to serious injuries in the sport.

"He's a negative influence," Dr. Charles Tator told CBC News in reference to Cherry, a popular personality on Hockey Night in Canada. "The aggressive, lack-of-respect hockey that he preaches — we need to get that out of the game."

Tator, an expert on brain injuries, said hockey culture needs to change and Cherry could influence that.

"If he took a strong stand against no hits to the head, it would help," Tator said. He noted that years ago, Cherry added his voice to a move to reduce serious neck injuries in hockey by stiffening rules about hitting from behind.

Tator's view on Cherry was not shared by everyone at the day-long conference, including a former NHL player who left the game in the 1990s due to head injuries.

"Its a very provocative statement," Jason Smith, now an orthopedic surgeon in Toronto, told CBC News in response to Tator's opinion that Cherry contributes to the injury problem.


CBC Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry during a news conference Nov. 24. ((Darren Calabrese/CP))

"I feel that Don Cherry cares about people, ultimately," Smith said. "So to call him a problem — I don't know. I think it's more in the [hockey]

culture. He's a product of that culture ... a little more of a rock 'em, sock 'em type."

Smith acknowledged it would make a huge difference if Cherry supported efforts like Think First, a foundation created by Tator to prevent injuries in sports.

"He needs to get on board with that stuff," Smith said. "It would be great if he would. No question."

The Regina conference was a collaboration between Hockey Canada and the Think First foundation.