It's not often that you'll see a story on Eyes on the Prize that isn't about the Canadiens, but I felt compelled to say something today.
With news today that James Reimer had a setback with his "whiplash" caused by incidental contact with Brian Gionta last Saturday, questions are arising about whether or not he has a concussion. The speculation ramped up after Jonas Gustavsson called Reimer's injury a concussion when he spoke to the media about starting against the Rangers tonight. Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson quickly dismissed Gustavsson's words saying that he's not a doctor, but how likely is it that Gustavsson isn't diagnosing, but repeating what has been admitted behind closed doors?
This isn't the first time that the Leafs haven't admitted a player had a concussion, it happened with Mikhail Grabovski last year against the Bruins, and he finished that game off with the game winning goal instead of sitting out, as it seems so often happens with concussions.
Now I'm not indicting the Leafs specifically for this, I think every team in the NHL has been guilty of this on more than one occasion in recent years, and part of the fault is on the players not relaying that they're hurt. However the NHL instituted a rule last year specifically to take the player's judgement out of the equation; requiring a player who was subjected to a hit to the head to spend time in a "quiet room" and be tested for concussion symptoms right after the contact in order to successfully diagnose concussions before there's another Crosby situation.
When Reimer was first hit, he looked hurt, there's no question about it, but he finished the period anyway. Moments later he was run again by Travis Moen and his head banged off the crossbar as Moen tucked in a goal. Any chance a second hit to the head in sequence is why Reimer is having trouble now? Common knowledge on concussions would suggest yes.
The Leafs organization is clearly taking this seriously now, but they didn't right away. That is an NHL philosophy that needs to change. Unless the NHL enforces the quiet room practice with authority however, it will never change, especially come playoff time.
In case anyone thinks I'm being a homer here, and taking a chance to bash Wilson and the Leafs, the Habs are guilty of it too. Last year in the playoffs Jeff Halpern received a head shot from Andrew Ference in game 7 that went uncalled by the refs, but Halpern was clearly messed up. He didn't go to the quiet room, and his play in overtime and poor positioning (something Halpern is usually fantastic at) in large part caused the series winning goal for Boston.
Would the Canadiens have thrown Halpern back on the ice so quickly if the result would be a huge fine to the coaching staff and the team? I don't think so. I believe team fines in this situation need to be explored.
Players are becoming aware of the dangers of concussions. The anonymous current NHL player who wrote a blog for Puck Daddy today shows that they're paying attention, as he relayed the story of Dave Scatchard being unable to perform simple tasks with his children because of post-concussion symptoms.
The NHL views players as commodities, not people, and this is especially true of the way NHL owners treat players. Perhaps the responsibility for pushing this idea should be on the NHLPA. The NHL has made huge strides in putting the onus on players for concussions, how about some responsibility for their employers as well?