The Detroit Red Wings beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 on Thursday night, handing Patrick Roy his first loss as an NHL head coach. But the only thing players and coaches alike could talk about after the game was the latest vicious hit to the head that sent a player off the ice on a stretcher.
This time it was Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who was carried off the ice on a stretcher after being rammed into the boards by Colorado forward Cody McLeod. McLeod received a major penalty for boarding and was immediately ejected.
The Red Wings announced on their Twitter account that Kronwall, ”has a concussion; cuts to the ear but he’s moving all extremities, being treating in locker room.”
”He talked to the doctor. He’s alert. He’s in the building,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said after the first period. ”Let’s get to tomorrow morning. Let’s see how he’s doing.”
Kronwall was trying to gather the puck in the corner early in the game when he was hit by McLeod barely two minutes into the game and with the game scoreless. Kronwall’s helmet flew off as he fell to the ice. Several teammates gathered around Kronwall as the dependable defenseman was strapped to the stretcher. Kronwall tossed away one of his gloves.
"Looked bad," Detroit’s Johan Franzen said.
Franzen scored a pair of goals, as did Pavel Datsyuk, and Daniel Alfredsson added three assists for the Red Wings who, once they learned Kronwall was all right, went back to dispatching the Avalanche.
But the chatter after the game centered around the hit delivered by McLeod.
"I don’t know how much time he had to actually slow down there, but he’s got to be able to at least lower his point of impact," Franzen said. "He’s got to find a way to not hit (Kronwall) in the head."
Kronwall was momentarily knocked out.
"It was really scary. He was out. He didn’t really know what happened there," fellow defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said. "We found out pretty early he was fine and he was going to recover fine."
Roy, who opened his career behind the bench 6-0-0 this season, is withholding his judgment of the play, preferring to see what NHL vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan has to say.
"To be honest with you, I didn’t look at it because I didn’t want to look at it," Roy said. "I didn’t want to make a comment on it. From the bench, I thought Kronwall turned his back at the last minute.
"Does that make it dirty? I guess Shanahan has to make a decision. From the bench I saw a defenseman turn his back at the last second. For anyone who knows the game it’s hard for a player to stop."
Already this season the NHL has seen several players injured when hit in the head — and several suspensions handed out in turn. The most noteworthy entering Thursday night was the hit St. Louis’ Maximi LaPierre delivered on San Jose’s Dan Boyle on Tuesday night, which ignited a firestrom on Wednesday.
Kronwall has one goal and five assists in seven games this season for the Red Wings.