NHL concussion spotters to have new powers for 2016-17

Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman talks about the changes the NHL is going to implement this season regarding concussion protocol.

As the National Football League takes heat for how Cam Newton’s medical situation was handled during its opening game of the season Thursday night, news is leaking about changes to the National Hockey League’s own concussion protocol.

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.

There is no question this move is in response to the fallout from the Dennis Wideman suspension. Wideman was punished for cross-checking linesman Don Henderson in January, less than 10 seconds after receiving a huge hit from Nashville’s Miikka Salomaki.

Evidence in the various hearings indicated the in-arena spotter had asked for Wideman to be removed from the game, but Wideman declined when approached by Calgary trainers. Later, Wideman admitted he did suffer a concussion, which led to a reduction in his penalty.

The full scope will be known once the entire protocol is revealed, but the act of removing players from games will be a fascinating procedure. Newton, the NFL’s reigning MVP, took a couple of hard shots to the head during Thursday’s night’s loss to Denver, but did not leave the game.

There was one penalty called by the on-field officials. On Friday morning, the NFL released a statement saying an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant and two independent spotters “concluded there were no indications of a concussion that would require further evaluation and (Newton’s) removal.”

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.