Jonathan Quick Removed After Blow to Head, Re-Enters Game After One Shift

Not sure what happened, but it couldn’t have been the NHL’s concussion protocol. Right?

At 17:05 of the first period of the Los Angeles Kings’ game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jonathan Quick took an accidental punch to the head from Derek Forbort and immediately grabbed his head.

That wasn’t good. Quick stayed down for a couple seconds on his back, got back to a knee, then got on his feet. Then things got weird. Quick stayed in for three more shifts, even snagging a William Nylander shot out of midair. At 18:59 of the period, though, Quick was summoned to the bench from his crease. It sure seemed like that was at the concussion spotters’ request, but there’s no current explanation for the delay in his call to the bench, especially after two further stoppages. Darcy Kuemper skated to the crease to take over for Quick, then Quick skated back in, and finally Quick left once more. Kuemper stayed in for one 36-second shift, making a save on Patrick Marleau, then left after the very next whistle at 19:25 of the period. Quick then came back in for the final 35 seconds.

This raises a lot of questions. Were the spotters actually responsible for Quick’s removal? If so, it’s unusual (to say the least) that Quick’s baseline testing took just 36 seconds. Did the Kings attempt to pull him and have Quick resist, only to be forced to take him off for a shift since he’d already technically left the game? That was a reasonable alternate explanation from Jon Rosen.

As per the NHL’s updated concussion protocol from October 2016, the On-Ice Officials are “authorized” to pull a player if a concussion is suspected. Specifically:

On-Ice Officials are also authorized to require a Player's removal for evaluation if they observe a Player displaying visible signs of concussion under the Protocol, following a direct or indirect blow to the head. In addition, On-Ice Officials now have the authority to mandate the removal of a Player from the game if the Player continues to play after the Central League Spotter has communicated to the Club medical staff that a mandatory evaluation is required.

Quick grabbing his head — whether or not it was an instinctive reaction — could certainly be interpreted as a sign, and the blow to his head was very much a direct one. Also relevant is the Kings’ responsibility:

Clubs that do not remove a Player who requires an evaluation will be subject to a mandatory minimum fine for a first offense, with substantially increased fine amounts for any subsequent offense. Additionally, any Player designated for a mandatory evaluation will not be permitted to re-enter the game unless and until he is evaluated by his Club's medical staff and cleared to play in accordance with the Protocol.

Apparently, Quick was not designated for mandatory evaluation, though it may have occurred during intermission. (Quick was back in for the start of the second period.) If so, the Kings didn’t have any incentive to remove their goalie... aside from Quick’s well-being, of course.

After Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s concussion on October 13, which saw him re-enter and finish the game before being diagnosed, it’s bizarre that no mandatory evaluation was required. We’ll update this post with further information once available.

UPDATE: John Stevens had a thoroughly in-depth explanation for reporters after the game. Bizarrely, the concussion spotters reviewed the play and called for Quick’s evaluation a minute after the incident, facilitating his removal. However, before play resumed, they reviewed the play again, called again, and said he was clear. At that point, the referees refused to allow him back in until the next “play,” so Quick sat out until the next stoppage and re-entered.

This means that the Kings won’t face any of the rulebook consequences mentioned above, and rightly so, as the league’s clearance allowed Quick to remain in. The unanswered question is how the league managed to clear Quick so quickly, or what they saw on a second look that changed their mind. Given that Quick stayed in the game, we probably won’t get that answer.