TORONTO – Jonathan Quick was briefly removed from Monday’s game because an NHL concussion spotter noticed he had exhibited signs of a potential head injury, but the Los Angeles Kings goaltender returned to the game moments later without undergoing concussion protocol.
Confusion around the league’s handling of suspected head injuries has resurfaced in a bizarre incident of broken telephone.
“I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the league,” said a heated Quick, when asked to explain the incident immediately after the Kings’ 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The goaltender said he felt “fine” despite being asked to leave the ice by the official and is not in any pain. He played well and looked sharp after the collision, allowing two more goals but making 30 saves in total.
“You gotta ask the league. I don’t know what they were doing. I don’t know what the f— happened. You have to ask the league. You guys saw the whole thing.”
The NHL has not responded to a request for comment, and a league source told Sportsnet Tuesday morning there is no plan to address the situation publicly.
Following the game, Kings management wanted more of an explanation as well.
A concussion lawsuit by former players looms over the league in these matters.
Here’s what happened.
Towards the end of the first period, Quick was clipped in the head and fell backward to the ice as Derek Forbort and Zach Hyman battled in front of his crease. Quick grabbed his head with his glove as he fell.
He remained in the game as play resumed.
The Los Angeles bench was notified through headset communication by one of the league’s neutral spotters watching on television in New York City that Quick needed to be removed from the ice.
The league office had looked into the play where he got bumped and originally deemed it worthy of a mandatory evaluation.
The independent “central spotters” who monitor the games are looking for visible signs of a potential concussion such as suspicious movement, reaching for the head or poor motor skills. Is the blow glancing or crushing?
Players, of course, have a history of embellishing hits in attempt to draw penalties.
The spotters are also looking to determine whether a player has been hit with a hockey stick or a body part.
A league source told us that, according to years of NHL research, concussions are significantly more likely to be caused in headshots involving a shoulder or elbow than they are with a stick hit.
“He didn’t want to come out. He felt fine,” Stevens said.
Quick began to walk down the tunnel to the dressing room but turned around and returned to the bench. He did speak with his trainer.
Backup goalie Darcy Kuemper entered the game for a total of 36 seconds and stopped the one shot he faced.
“As we were getting Darcy ready to go in the net, [the NHL] said they reviewed it a second time and he doesn’t have to come out,” Kings head coach John Stevens explained.
Upon second review, a league source said, the NHL determined Quick had been hit by a stick and therefore did not need to go to a quiet room. The hit was downgraded to “discretionary removal,” and the Kings decided Quick was good to go. (For what it’s worth, the replays I’ve seen aren’t conclusive that it was a stick and not Forbort’s forearm.)
“So when we tried to put [Quick] back in the net, the referee came over and said, ‘If there’s an injury on the ice, he has to come out for one play.’ I said, ‘Well, he’s not injured. We were doing what we were told from the league.’ They came over after and said, ‘That’s never happened before,’ ” Stevens said.
“[The officials] were doing what they thought was right. We just didn’t like a [new] guy going in with a minute left in the period. Everyone was just doing what they were told.
“It’s for the safety of the player. We get that.”
Stevens said a mandatory evaluation stipulates that the player go to the dressing room and undergo an evaluation by a doctor. Because the league reversed its original ruling of the play, it was no longer mandatory that Quick undergo concussion protocol.
Confusing matters even more, Quick remained in the game and played for a few minutes after getting bumped before the spotters’ original message was relayed to the refs.
If he was spotted as exhibiting possible concussion symptoms, why wasn’t he yanked right away?
“Quite honestly, we want to ask the league that question,” Stevens said, “because it was a little bit disruptive for everybody.”
UPDATE: The league’s concussion evaluation and management protocol is outlined in depth here.
A separate league source spoke Tuesday to Sportsnet’s John Shannon, who tweeted the following explanation of the sequence of events: