Leafs' Tavares discharged from hospital, out 'indefinitely' with concussion after frightening collision

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Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares has been discharged from hospital after a frightening collision in Thursday's game against the Montreal Canadiens, and will be out of the playoffs 'indefinitely,' according to the team. (John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports - image credit)
Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares has been discharged from hospital after a frightening collision in Thursday's game against the Montreal Canadiens, and will be out of the playoffs 'indefinitely,' according to the team. (John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports - image credit)

The Toronto Maple Leafs say captain John Tavares has been discharged from hospital and will be out of the playoffs "indefinitely" following a frightening collision in Thursday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens.

Head coach Sheldon Keefe confirmed later Friday that Tavares had sustained a concussion.

"It's a very unfortunate predicament," Keefe added. "Losing your captain, it's not what you want when you're going into a playoff run where you've got high expectations."

The 30-year-old was taken off the ice on a stretcher and transported to hospital after colliding with Montreal's Ben Chiarot in the first period. He was hit in the head by Corey Perry's knee as he fell.

The Leafs said Tavares was thoroughly examined and assessed by the neurological team at St. Michael's Hospital and the club's medical director.

"He was kept overnight for observation and is now resting at home under the care and supervision of team physicians. Tavares will be out indefinitely," said a post on Twitter.

"A scary situation," Leafs forward Auston Matthews said. "We're all thinking of Johnny and happy he's doing better and he's back home. Guys are going to have to step up, all of us are going to have to step up. It's hard to replace a guy like him.

"He's our captain. He's our leader."

Jason Spezza was speaking with Tavares on the ice in the immediate aftermath of the injury in an attempt to calm his friend and teammate.

"There's a pit in your stomach," Spezza said. "It's sickening to see somebody lie on the ice like that. And especially John. He's so dialled in and in control.

"To see him be in a state like that really makes you sick to your stomach."

Perry: 'I tried to jump'

Montreal defeated Toronto 2-1 in Game 1 to take an early lead in the first-round series. It's the teams' first post-season matchup since 1979.

The centre shared his gratitude for the outpouring of support on Twitter.

"The support I've felt since last night cannot be put into words," Tavares wrote.

"I look forward to when I can wear the Maple Leaf on my chest again. Until then, I'll be cheering on the boys along with Leafs Nation as we compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs."

Perry recounted the situation in a media briefing after the game, saying he tried to avoid Tavares at the last second.

"I don't know what else to do. I tried to jump," he said. "I know Johnny pretty well, and I just hope he's OK."

Canadiens' goalie Carey Price — who returned to the net Thursday — Perry and Tavares were all part of Canada's 2014 Olympic gold medal winning team.

"It's a scary situation when that happens," Perry said. "You never want to see that."

WATCH | Graphic Warning: Maple Leafs' Tavares exits Game 1 on stetcher:

Dr. Paul Echlin, a primary care sports medicine specialist in Burlington, Ont., said he's "amazed" to see NHL officials calling Tavares's injury a concussion. He noted it's a small advancement over the last 25 years, from when concussions were disguised as "upper-body injuries."

"It's a traumatic brain injury. It's serious and it's not John Tavares' first one," he said.

Fight 'addresses the situation,' Foligno says

Echlin described the trainers rushing onto the ice and working to control Tavares's neck and spine as he attempted to stand up. While the later part shouldn't have happened, Echlin said, the quick response was "good job."

When the teams returned to play, Leafs winger Nick Foligno and Perry dropped their gloves for a fight.

"Our captain's laying on the ice," Foligno said. "It's nothing more than that. Perry obliged ... it just addresses the situation and everyone moves on."

WATCH | CBC Sports' Jamie Strashin gives lastest update on Leafs' captain:

But Echlin sees it differently. He said the potential for brain injury from big hits are "still not taken seriously enough" and that their impacts go beyond sport.

"Didn't hear much about the fight, but everyone's horrified by the knee to the head," he said. "The hypocrisy has to come out. The science is already there."

Echlin said the regulations haven't advanced "that much" and that the seriousness needed to protect the head and neck isn't there. People don't recover from brain injuries in a couple weeks, he said —they take months.

"[The NHL] chooses not to prevent these injuries as much as they can from happening, making individuals responsible for their body, whether it's accidental or it's on purpose," he said.

"As Pat Lafontaine said almost 15 years ago, the head and neck should be off limits."

Keefe provided an update on Tavares' health following the game, saying he was conscious and communicating well. The centre had given a thumbs up as he was wheeled off the ice.

"It's a big loss for us, but we've got lots of depth," he said. "Good teams overcome these types of things. That's going to be on us."

Toronto and Montreal next play on Saturday.

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