Montreal's Nathan Beaulieu took a heavy blow in a fight with Nick Foligno Tuesday night. Why wasn't he placed immediately in the NHL concussion protocol?
The Montreal Canadiens' tilt with the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night was a chippy affair to say the least. Habs defenseman Alexei Emelin levelled Jackets left winger Matt Calvert with a hit away from the play in the first period and earned a five-minute major and game misconduct for interference.
Then, in the second period, Montreal blueliner Nathan Beaulieu threw down in a fight with Columbus captain Nick Foligno. Foligno caught Beaulieu's teammate, Tomas Fleischmann, with a knee-on-knee hit and Beaulieu took exception.
Before we watch the fight, let's pause to ponder the NHL's concussion protocol. Players showing visible symptoms of concussion are to be examined by team trainers and sent to a quiet room free of distraction for further evaluation by a physician. The league also solidified its concussion spotter program to make league-trained, league-employed spotters available for all games. Teams could use their own spotters or the league-designated ones. The spotters' job is to notify team trainers of any visible concussion symptoms in players following blows to the head.
Now, let's look at the fight between Beaulieu and Foligno:
I'm no doctor, but Beaulieu buckled under that one final punch from Foligno, correct? Beaulieu took a heavy punch to the head from a 210-pound man, quicky crumpled to his knees and appeared woozy afterward.
And yet, the closest thing Beaulieu saw to a quiet room was the penalty box. He wasn't sent for evaluation. What gives?
Someone did not take proper precaution here. We could point a finger at the concussion spotters, who appeared not to spot concussion evidence, but consider what NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in September:
“No medical expertise is needed to do the job they are being asked to do. They aren’t evaluating the players or diagnosing whether or not they have a concussion. That’s the job of the doctors and trainers. All they are doing is alerting team medical staff where they witness or identify an incident where there is a visible sign of concussion. Those signs aren’t ‘medical’ – they are objectively observable and they have already been precisely defined in the protocol.”
So for all we know, the concussion spotters did in fact alert the Canadiens medical staff about Beaulieu's symptoms. As reported by Renaud Lavoie, there was some discussion about bringing Beaulieu back to the dressing room after the hit, but it didn't happen.
Beaulieu was back for the third period, and coach Michel Therrien said after the game Beaulieu underwent the protocol during the second intermission, but that's not good enough. The symptoms of a concussion can subside fast enough that the window for proper evaluation can pass in a matter of minutes and produce a false negative test. "He looked fine" or "he said he was fine" does not suffice. The blow Beaulieu sustained did not pass even the simple eye test for a casual observer.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin