McDavid Angry, But NHL's Concussion Protocol Working | - Edmonton Oilers News and Rumours

McDavid Angry, But NHL's Concussion Protocol Working

If you watched the Edmonton Oilers versus the Minnesota Wild game on Sunday, you likely witnessed a trend that is going to play a continued role in future NHL games. That trend is the NHL's concussion spotters making a decision and the response being frustrated professional hockey players. It's a dichotomy that will likely last as long as there are risks to player safety, but in the end, these spotters are merely doing what they're supposed to do.

In this case, protocol said to pull a player off the ice to potentially protect him from himself. That player was Connor McDavid. The normally subdued and very professional Oilers' captain, laughed off the referees when the decision was made and it was obvious McDavid was annoyed. Perhaps, from McDavid's point of view, he may have had an argument. At the end of the day, does it matter?

The Specifics

Near the end of the second period, McDavid was tripped by Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon and wound up banging his chin pretty hard in Sunday's contest. He grabbed his mouth, got up and seemed fine, but concussion spotters made a different call. Not long after the incident, it was determined McDavid may have hit his head harder than he should have and the specific concussion crew who witnessed the incident called the on-ice officials and forced McDavid out of the game until he was medically cleared to return.

Whether you agree or disagree with the call, this is the job assigned to these spotters. It is the purpose of the mandated concussion protocol. On Sunday, the NHL and their new concussion initiative did the correct thing.


Edmonton's Reaction

Not everyone agreed. McDavid clearly didn't like the call. His team was going to have a two-man powerplay and being forced into the locker room meant he wouldn't be able to contribute to the Oilers potentially taking advantage. Patrick Maroon was also very vocal on the topic. He took advantage of an opportunity given him by Sportsnet's Mark Spector to speak his mind:
'This is a man's game... People are going to get hit, get high-sticked. They're going to go through the middle and get hit. That's part of hockey, and that's why we have all this gear that protects us. Yes, if someone gets seriously hurt, we're concerned. But he just fell, got tripped. I just don't get it.

The Player's Argument

For McDavid, what he felt was probably equivalent to receiving a punch in the jaw from a fist made of ice. Maroon is correct in that professional hockey players have likely felt worse. McDavid knew it was no big deal, teammates like Maroon probably knew he was fine, but the protocol said that the best medicine was caution. Isn't that the point?

Players want to play. It irritates them when someone who can't possibly know how they feel tells them they're not in a position to make that call for themselves. That said, the players are often not the best judge of right and wrong in these cases. The new rules are in place to protect players. Sometimes these players need it.

The NHL's concussion initiative started last season. It was used a few times, but not terribly often. Now that players, coaches and management are aware of the systems and protocols, players should be more accustomed to how the process works. Short-term, these decisions may not be popular. They might even cost a team an opportunity to win a game. Long-term, they have the potential to save someone's career.

The result of the debate is that NHL concussion crews and the decisions they make often come with some controversy. The NHL seems ok with that.

The NHL's Argument

The NHL will argue that when concussion protocol works likes it's supposed to, it's inevitable the players will be upset. The process catches incidences where the players and coaches don't. Because McDavid came back in the third period and because the Oilers lost in overtime on Sunday, the loss was in many ways blamed on a mere few minutes. The topic caught fire and on Monday and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly addressed the situation.

Daly told TSN that he was fine with the spotters and how they have conducted themselves this year. “We have no intention of changing the standards that are employed based on the situation in the game or season,” Daly said.

Daly later admitted that the process is a work in progress, but overall the NHL is happy with how the protocol is working. He added, “It’s always better to err on the side of caution.”

It's not often I agree with things the NHL does. And yes, I was upset to see McDavid not a part of the 5-on-3 powerplay. But, long-term, I'd rather watch an NHL that looks after every player when they feel the player may not look after themselves. After an NHL player's career is over, there is daily life to worry about. Players may not care in the heat of the moment. It's natural, but it's not the right thing.

Right or wrong, someone else has to make the calls that players won't.

But, who cares what I think right? For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.

Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.

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