SAN JOSE -- Concussions are, unfortunately, something associated with playing hockey. But we typically only think of the skaters on the ice as the ones taking the hits. We forget that the individuals behind the bench are susceptible to danger as well.
Perhaps that’s why when NBC Sports California asked Sharks coach Peter DeBoer how he was feeling one week after being hit in the head with a puck, he was surprised.
“How do I look?” DeBoer responded, chuckling along with the media after Monday’s morning skate.
Although the exchange was light-hearted, the event that prompted that conversation was a bit scary.
DeBoer took a puck to the temple during San Jose’s Jan. 7 contest with the Los Angeles Kings. He missed the following day’s game -- a contest with the Edmonton Oilers that resulted in a 7-2 Sharks victory -- and was presumed to be sick. It wasn’t until later that he revealed he’d been hit in the head.
“I’m feeling better but not 100 percent, I’ll be honest with you,” DeBoer said roughly seven days after the incident. “They’re strange injuries. I won’t get into all the details of it. I’m definitely better but still a little bit off.”
It’s no secret the NHL takes head injuries very seriously, having just beefed up and updated its league-wide protocol for concussions at the start of the 2016-17 season. That serious approach extends to all members of the team -- and DeBoer, despite returning behind the bench for the Sharks’ next game against the Vegas Golden Knights, has stayed off the ice for the team’s subsequent practices because of concussion symptoms.
Since symptoms vary from person to person and can last upward of a year, it’s difficult to say how long DeBoer will deal with the aftermath of that errant puck. Although he told the media he wasn’t dealing with anything serious.
“It’s little things like that, nothing major,” he insisted.
DeBoer isn’t the first coach to sustain a head injury mid-game -- or even the first Sharks coach to do so. As fans likely recall, San Jose's former bench boss, Todd McLellan, was knocked out by a stick during a 2012 game against the Minnesota Wild.
DeBoer revealed he recently talked about the incident with McLellan and other NHL coaches who’ve dealt with similar misfortune.
“He got knocked right out,” DeBoer said. “He said it was about a week before he started feeling normal again.
“Talked to some other coaches,” DeBoer continued, pointing specifically to Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice, who took a puck to the head in 2014.
“Paul Maurice, I talked to as a friend of mine" DeBoer said. "He said he couldn’t watch video for a few weeks.”
It isn’t set in stone how long DeBoer will feel the effects of that puck to the head. He did admit, however, he felt taking a puck to the noggin might have given him a new perspective on how members of his team deal with head injuries.
“That’s probably the silver lining of this,” DeBoer confessed. “You get kind of numb to (concussions). I haven’t had one in 30 years.
“I think, going through this, I’ll definitely have a different perspective the next time one of the guys walks in with one.”