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PM Harper concerned about number of serious injuries in NHL

The Canadian Press

3/10/2011 3:14:18 PM

TORONTO -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he is concerned about the growing number of serious injuries in the NHL.

An avid hockey fan, Harper says the league needs to take a serious look at the issue.

He made the comments in the wake of the devastating hit that placed Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty in hospital with a severe concussion and fractured vertebra.

"I just say this as a hockey fan, I'm very concerned about the growing number of very serious injuries, and in some cases to some of the premier players in the game," Harper said at an event in Toronto on Thursday.

"I don't think that's good for the game and I think the league's got to take a serious look at that for its own sake."

Other than to send his thoughts to the injured Pacioretty, Harper declined to comment specifically on the hit, saying it's not the government's job to get involved.

"Obviously, I want to express sympathy to Mr. Pacioretty, his family, his teammates," he said. "We're all very concerned about his health and I hope to see him have a full recovery and get back on the ice."

Where Harper does feel the government needs to take action is with safety in kids sports.

"That is something we're particularly seized with taking action on and working with our provincial partners on because this phenomenon is not just at the top level," he said. "You are seeing a growing number of head and brain injuries in sports competitions at the child and amateur level."

The NHL did not suspend or fine Boston captain Zdeno Chara for the controversial hit. Commissioner Gary Bettman called Pacioretty's injury horrific, but said it's part of the game.

Montreal police have opened a criminal investigation into the hit while Air Canada has threatened to withdraw its sponsorship unless the NHL moves to impose sanctions to reduce potential serious injuries.