Heads up - LA Kings Insider

Given all the attention paid to hits to the head in the past year, and the subsequent rule changes put in place for this season, it’s not surprising that equipment makers are bringing out new products they believe will protect hockey players’ heads. Cascade, traditionally a maker of lacrosse helmets, has partnered with Mark Messier on the M11 helmet, which is touted as being solid protection against concussions and head injuries. To read more about the technology behind the helmets, click here.

On the Kings, Willie Mitchell and Kevin Westgarth are the only two players who have tried the helmets during training camp, and for somewhat obvious reasons. Mitchell has suffered three concussions in his NHL career and Westgarth is the designated “enforcer.” I talked to both players today about the helmets, and reviews were somewhat mixed…

WESTGARTH: “I think it was kind of providential for me. I just came in last year, and that was the first year they had them. They had them back there (in the trainers’ room) and they said, `Do you want to try one out?’ I tried it and I loved it. From everything I hear, they’re great for concussions, and it’s nice because they tighten around your head, so it’s a good, solid fit, real comfortable. I’ve been in three fights so far and it hasn’t come off yet. Sometimes I like to get the hair out there, but I guess I’ll take the punches off my helmet as opposed to off my head. … You don’t really notice it, minute to minute, but you do feel that it tightens the whole head, as opposed to front to back. So definitely it feels real snug and it feels good. You don’t really notice it, and that’s the idea.”

Westgarth, a product of Princeton University, almost certainly just became the first professional athlete to use the word “providential” in a quote. Here are Mitchell’s thoughts on the helmet…

MITCHELL: “I did a little bit of research on them. That’s kind of been their frontier, so to speak. They’ve done shock tests and stuff like that, and it’s the next level for helmets. It’s tough, because everyone has different beliefs on it. There’s no perfect science for it. It’s not peer-reviewed yet either. They put out their science and say, `This is best for shock and concussions and all that.’ Then Bauer puts out theirs and Reebok puts out theirs, and it’s all within points of each other. They’ve done their own, independent testing on it but no one has peer-reviewed it, so how do you gauge? I’m not sure on that. I’ve been trying it. It’s been so-so, so far. I think the No. 1 thing for a helmet, just personally after going through a concussion like I did, is having the right fit. If the helmet doesn’t fit on your head right, it’s not going to do you any good. You can have the highest test-rated helmet, by their standards, on your head, and if it doesn’t fit right, it’s not going to do you any good. You need something that fits your head right and stays on. If it fits your head right, it will absorb that blow the best. So I’m kind of going around with it a bit, giving it a shot, and we’ll see where it goes. I don’t know if I’m going to wear it for the season yet. I’m just trying it out.”