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UNSEALED NHL documents in the concussion lawsuit brought by former players reveal a snapshot of an internal debate by league officials over head injuries and a deeper concern about the impact of fighting than what had been publicly shared.

In some emails, among the 298 documents recently declassified in the case by U.S. Magistrate Judge Janie Mayeron, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s tone comes across as defensive regarding criticism directed at the league for its handling of player safety and the fighting culture that has existed on the ice for decades.

Other exchanges, however, suggested an NHL leadership that’s conflicted over a complicated issue.

Jared Boll #40 of the Columbus Blue Jackets lands a punch while fighting with Matt Kassian #28 of the Ottawa Senators.
Jared Boll #40 of the Columbus Blue Jackets lands a punch while fighting with Matt Kassian #28 of the Ottawa Senators.Source: Getty Images

In a January 2009 exchange between senior vice president Colin Campbell and Canadian TV broadcast reporter Bob McKenzie, Campbell said he might go public with a recommendation that the NHL get rid of fighting or at least attempt to reduce it.

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NHL expansion, Seattle NHL team, 32nd franchise, NHL realignment, SuperSonics

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Seattle is getting a National Hockey League team. It will just have to wait a little bit longer to drop the puck.

The NHL Board of Governors unanimously approved adding Seattle as the league’s 32nd franchise on Tuesday, with play set to begin in 2021 instead of 2020 to allow enough time for arena renovations.

The as-yet unnamed franchise will be the Emerald City’s first major winter sports team since the NBA’s SuperSonics left town in 2008.

“Today is a day for celebration in a great city that adores and avidly supports its sports teams and for our 101-year-old sports league,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

“Expanding to Seattle makes the National Hockey League more balanced, even more whole and even more vibrant. A team in Seattle evens the number of teams in our two conferences, brings our geographic footprint into greater equilibrium and creates instant new rivalries out west, particularly between Seattle and Vancouver.”

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Gritty: The story behind sports’ greatest mascot, Philadelphia Flyers’ nightmare fuel creation

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The new Flyers mascot had just destroyed the set of the “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”

Within seconds of being unleashed, he headed straight for Questlove’s drum set and started tossing his sticks across the room. As Fallon and Ricky Gervais attempted to dance to Boyz II Men, the bizarre, orange, bearded, googly eyed creature cut in and started an all-out brawl with the two comedians.

Later, as he left 30 Rock in full costume and headed to his chartered helicopter — yes, a mascot for a hockey team had his own helicopter waiting for him — the all-seeing eyes of TMZ had caught wind of his location. They chased him down the street, screaming his name:

“Gritty! Gritty!”

Within three days of his creation, Gritty had become a sensation. But where did he come from? And what the hell is he?

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NHL fight, Tommy Hawk Chicago Blackhawks mascot attacked, video as fan loses fight to mascot

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Not all mascots are warm and fuzzy.

The Chicago Blackhawks released a statement after a video surfaced showing the team’s mascot, Tommy Hawk, body-slamming and punching a fan who provoked him in the concourse of the United Center one night earlier.

In the video, the man appears to try to attack the mascot, who then lifts the man into the air and slams him to the ground before landing several blows while other fans watch nearby.

“We are gathering the facts and will have no further comment at this time, pending our investigation,” the Blackhawks said in a statement published by the Chicago Sun-Times.

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