NHL concussion protocol under question after Beaulieu incident

Watch as Canadiens’ Nathan Beaulieu takes a big right hook right on the jaw by Blue Jackets’ Nick Foligno.

BROSSARD, Que. — An incident in Tuesday night’s hockey game between the Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets sparked controversy.

When Canadiens defenceman Nathan Beaulieu took a punch from Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno in their second-period fight, his legs buckled and he struggled to regain his balance.

A league-appointed concussion spotter was in attendance but not of the opinion that Beaulieu had exhibited concussion symptoms that would require him to go to the ‘quiet room’.

Beaulieu instead served his five-minute penalty for fighting before riding out the remaining 50 seconds of the period on Montreal’s bench, rather than going to the ‘quiet room’.

Canadiens doctors evaluated Beaulieu between the second and third periods, and the Montreal defender completed the game.

A lot of questions were raised regarding the protocol of league-appointed concussion spotters.

Where do they sit? Do they have the authority to pull players off the ice? How are their observations logged?

Sportsnet obtained the following information from the NHL’s Deputy Commissioner, Bill Daly to clarify the protocol.

“Spotters do not have to be located in proximity to the ice surface,” wrote Daly. “The primary requirement is for them to have access to video equipment with live streams and replays of game action.

“If they witness certain visible signs of concussion and notify the bench, the protocol mandates that those players be removed from play for evaluation.

“Spotters make a log of all of the visible signs they witness and communicate to the bench. That information is filed with the Concussion Subcommittee for its review and oversight.”

Beaulieu, who participated in Canadiens practice Wednesday, said, “I got a little banged up. Luckily, I’m fine. I’m good to go.”

Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said Wednesday the Canadiens followed their own protocol to the letter.

“We’re a family,” said Therrien in French. “The majority of our fans and the media understand. I understand — they debate line changes, trades — it’s part of Quebecois folklore. It makes for good discussions around the table or in the bar; makes for good television and radio shows. That’s perfect, it shows passion.

“What I find more troubling is when people doubt the integrity of our [medical personnel]. I have a lot of trouble with that. People are casting doubt on the decisions we make regarding the safety of our players. Of course we follow the right steps.”

Concussion protocol and the NHL’s spotter system will be on the agenda at next week’s Board of Governors meeting in Pebble Beach, Calif.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.