When Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Calvert went down after blocking a shot with his head on Saturday, his team didn't just lose a player. They conceded a goal that made the game 4-3 and helped the Canucks push it to overtime, earning a point in the process.
Calvert, 29, was hit in the head by an Elias Pettersson shot from near point-blank range with two minutes and 50 seconds left in the third period on Saturday and appeared in obvious distress. Still, play went on — even after Pettersson raised his hand to indicate his opponent needed immediate help.
This is honestly terrible pic.twitter.com/WUXN79tawo
— DNVR Avalanche (@DNVR_Avalanche) November 17, 2019
The Canucks scored thirteen seconds later while Calvert remained down on the ice, struggling to get up. After the game, Colorado players were still fuming after the game that on-ice officials didn't stop the game to allow medical staff to attend to their teammate.
Erik Johnson on the Matt Calvert incident: “It’s a fucking joke. You want to protect a guy? Guy’s got a family at home, he’s laying there bleeding out of his head and you don’t blow the whistle? It’s a complete joke. An absolute joke. They should be ashamed of themselves.” #Avs
— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) November 17, 2019
Nathan MacKinnon, who scored the game-winning goal just 27 seconds into overtime, could be seen yelling at the referees after Calvert's injury for not blowing the play dead. After the game, he said he "just can't see" any other sport allowing play to continue while an athlete bleeds from his head. He said referees need to make a "judgment call" when players' heads are concerned.
"It’s not the Canucks’ fault. It’s not the refs’ fault. It’s just a league rule," MacKinnon told reporters via Sportsnet. "The refs, they wanted to blow it. It’s just silly they can’t."
“The guy is lying there, bleeding out the side of his head," MacKinnon continued. "And it’s Matt Calvert; he’s such a tough guy, he’s not looking for a whistle and faking it. If it’s a puck off the foot, let him lay there. A broken foot, it’s serious, but he’ll be fine. But a guy’s bleeding out of his ear? It’s pretty dangerous."
The NHL rulebook states that when a player is injured so badly that they cannot continue playing, officials will not stop play until the injured player's team has recovered control of the puck. But given the nature of Calvert's injury, even players who weren't in the game — such as Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski — chimed in on Twitter to say "this play has to stop."
Has to be blown down. This play has to stop https://t.co/ig8WkmGT20
— Zach Werenski (@ZachWerenski) November 17, 2019
Werenski expanded on his comment Sunday morning and added that "[this situation] is a tough spot for the refs" based on the league's rules.
"It puts [referees] in a tough position and I'm sure they don't want to see anyone hurt on the ice," Werenski tweeted. "Have to make it more clear in situations like this."
Colorado has not yet released an update on Calvert's status.