Dionne: Speed, rink sizes affect concussion numbers

Count Hockey Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne among those alarmed at the severity of concussions in the NHL, especially after it was revealed that tough guy Chris Pronger would be shut down with more than half the season remaining.
Chris Pronger is out for the rest of the year with severe post-concussion syndrome. NHL Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne gives his views 7:16

Count Hockey Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne among those alarmed at the severity of the concussion issue in the NHL in recent months.

The latest concussion revelation came down Thursday when the Philadelphia Flyers took the incredible step of shutting down Chris Pronger —one of the league's toughest players the past two decades — for the rest of the season and the playoffs.

Dionne told CBC News Network on Friday that unlike injuries to other parts of the body, there are no easy answers with concussions.

"Now a player comes back and he's concerned, it affects him not only physically, but mentally," said the 60-year-old, who played 18 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers. "It's very difficult to put your finger on."

While the 37-year-old Pronger is a veteran who has taken his share of lumps in a long and impressive career, some of the brightest young NHL talent have also been impacted by concussions of late.

Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang, Jeff Skinner of Carolina, Milan Michalek of Ottawa and Philadelphia's Claude Giroux have all been sidelined indefinitely in recent days.

Crosby missed 68 regular-season and playoff games beginning in early January before returning on Nov. 21. But headaches after a Boston game just two weeks later have him sidelined again. Crosby will miss his fourth consecutive game Friday when the Penguins take on Ottawa.

Ex-NHL great wants red line back

Dionne focused on two areas that could help curb the number of concussions, including rink sizes.

"An extra two feet [behind the net] would make a huge, huge difference for a lot of players," he said.

However, Dionne said he didn't think it was likely that 30 facilities could be reformatted anytime soon. 

Dionne also said the the NHL should look at ways to keep the game fast but reduce risk, including reinstating the red line.

"It's very difficult as a forward to protect your defenceman," he said, adding that speed is also maximized by the fact that most players take very short shifts compared to when he played in the league.

The five-foot-eight Dionne managed to avoid concussions in his era, and said the one silver lining is that the players are beginning to think of their long-term health first and foremost.