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The NHL will introduce spotters to identify players displaying concussion symptoms during games this season.
There's a sobering regret with the news of Ryane Clowe's retirement at 32. The Clowe as we knew him has been gone a couple seasons, too. Concussions repeatedly did him in. It's only natural to wonder if his early demise was preventable. Could Clowe have played five more years if we knew more about head trauma, how to prevent it and how to identify it mid-game before it's too late?
The NHL took a step toward solving the latter this week. As reported by Renaud Lavoie, "The NHL will introduce spotters for every game this season. The spotters will be for purposes of determining invisible signs of concussion."
If the decision sounds familiar, that's because it is. The NFL introduced what many call 'The Julian Edelman' rule for 2015 following last season's Super Bowl, during which Edelman took a heavy hit and remained on the field without being examined. A trainer had reportedly radioed down to the Patriots sideline, but the team was in the middle of a rapid no-huddle drive. And while Edelman later tested negative for a concussion, the worry was that his symptoms had simply dissipated. The NFL employed press box spotters in previous seasons, but the 'Edelman rule' now gives the spotters the power to stop games immediately if they notice symptoms in a player.
The details are still muddy, but it appears the NHL spotters will also have the power to force players to leave games in the event of displaying symptoms. From what we know so far, however, the NHL spotters, unlike the NFL's, won't require medical training. As deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Lavoie,
"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."
The spotters will also reportedly work in one city and earn payment from home teams. THN is investigating the rule further. We will report more as we learn the specifics.
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