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NHL has ‘no intention’ of changing concussion protocol standards

Connor McDavid is right that he could have changed Sunday’s game had he not been removed for concussion protocol ahead of a power play, but the league isn’t about to change its standards.

There’s no knowing it know, but the Edmonton Oilers could have won Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Wild had Connor McDavid been available for a power play opportunity late in the second period. However, mandatory concussion testing set into action by a league concussion spotter forced McDavid to head to the dressing room.

Both the team and McDavid were taken aback by the fact he had to be sent off for what looked like a rather harmless bump against the ice that barely resulted in a nick to the face of the league’s leading scorer. Post-game, McDavid called it an inconvenience and said he was shocked he had to be removed from play, while coach Todd McLellan said he understood the reasoning for the process and was only seeking consistency.

But in the face of the controversy, if you can call it that, surrounding McDavid’s removal from Sunday’s game, the league says there are no plans to make any alterations to the way the league’s concussion spotters are monitoring games and it’s going to stay that way for the duration of the season, regardless of the importance of the player or the time in the game.

“We have no intention of changing the standards that are employed based on the situation in the game or season,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said, according to TSN’s Frank Seravalli.

What resulted in McDavid’s removal from Sunday’s game, Seravalli reported, was that the Oilers captain triggered one of the signs of concussion under the new protocol. By grabbing at his face to check if he was bleeding after making contact with the ice, an action McDavid said is a natural and reflexive one, an assertion which is hard to argue, McDavid was picked out by the NHL’s newly implemented Central League Spotters.

It’s not just a player reaching for their head that can trigger a concussion spotter to pull them off the ice, though. Seravalli reported other potential signs or triggers for the spotters to make the call include a player being slow to get back to their feet or laying motionless, loss of balance or other motor function or a blank look.

Daly admitted to Seravalli that using the Central League Spotters is a work in progress, but said the league is “comfortable with how the new protocol is working.” 

There’s little doubt the current protocol could lead to some uncomfortable moments down the line, of course, but don’t expect to see any changes to the way the league is operating in its removal of players, be it a star forward or backup goaltender, if they’re picked out by the league’s spotters.

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