NHL adding ‘video concussion spotters’ to protocol for 2016-17

GETTY IMAGES
GETTY IMAGES

The NHL’s decision to add “concussion spotters” inside their arenas last season was seen by some as a proactive move to further police the health of its players, and by others as ineffective window dressing influenced by ongoing concussion litigation.

(But hey, why not both!)

Two primary problems with the “spotters” program were that they were team-affiliated rather than independent; and that unlike the “Julian Edelman Rule” in the NFL, where the spotters can demand that a player leave the game for evaluation if he’s showing signs of having been concussed, the ultimate decision for removal from an NHL game rested with the team trainers, whose previous performance on these matters, ya know, necessitated concussion spotters.

Well, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the concussion spotters are growing in number and (potentially) influence this season:

For the 2016-17 season, four independent trainers (called “Central Spotters”) will be monitoring all NHL games via television. If they see “visible signs” of a concussion, they will send word to the team that their affected player must be removed from the game.

According to one source, the league plans to release full details shortly before the start of the regular season. From what I understand, all four independent spotters have hockey backgrounds but none are currently affiliated with an NHL club. There will still also be team-affiliated spotters in every building.

Now, the “must be removed” part seems to bring us closer to the Edelman rule.

Friedman sees this as a direct result from the Dennis Wideman situation, in which an in-arena spotter said the Calgary Flames defenseman should have been removed from the game in which he assaulted linesman Don Henderson but the Flames’ trainers decided not to do so after Wideman refused to go to “The Quiet Room.” (And team personnel later told Wideman to be dishonest about his concussion in postgame interviews.)

If one of these “central spotters” deems it so, will a player actually be removed? More details will emerge once the new protocol is officially released, but it’s a promising development.

But for now, we’ll marvel at the irony that the NHL is allowing concussions to be diagnosed via television viewers after lambasting the NHLPA’s doctors for evaluating Wideman over FaceTime and later dismissing the arbitrator who reduced Wideman’s suspension for “fact-finding” by watching video of the incident. Stay tuned!

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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