In the immediate seconds after New York Rangers defenseman John Moore's shoulder made contact with Montreal Canadiens forward Dale Weise's head, the Habs forward didn't have a good look to him. A little wobbly on his feet and being held up by teammate P.K. Subban, it didn't look good. Weise returned to the game, somehow, but now he won't play in Game 6.
Habs coach Michel Therrien confirmed that Weise would not play, citing a "body injury" as the reason. Weise was not on the ice at the Canadiens' morning skate ahead of Thursday night's must-win Game 6 and it looks like he will be replaced by Brandon Prust, fresh off his two-game suspension.
Weise was diagnosed with a concussion after Game 5, according to a report from TVA Sports' Renaud Lavoie, and that injury played a role in the decision process for Moore's suspension. Moore deservedly was ejected from the game for the hit and received a two-game suspension of his own from the Department of Player Safety.
Therrien was asked about regret for putting Weise back into the game, but said the reporter's presumption that Weise is dealing with a head injury was not correct.
The fact that Weise missed mere minutes of the game should put the Canadiens firmly under the microscope as well. Therrien explained the process Thursday ahead of Game 6.
"After the hit he went to meet the doctors, saw the doctors," Therrien said of Weise. "He was feeling fine about finishing the game.
"For us, what is really important is player safety. This is important for us. It's been like that all season long. It's not going to change. But right now he's got a body injury. He won't be able to play tonight."
Whether Weise has a concussion or not, the concern lies in that the league really has no way of holding teams accountable if they do reinsert players only to have them later diagnosed with head injuries.
This is not a cut-and-dried issue as a concussion is not a cut-and-dried injury. NHL players prove to be both stubborn and crafty when it comes to making sure they don't miss any game time, but the league has to take a stand on situations like this.
Players don't want to err on the side of caution, they want to err on the side of whatever lets them play the game, but that call shouldn't be left up to them. It's hard to even say if Weise was examined long enough to get a good gauge on his health.
The NHL's policy on a player visiting the "quiet room" remains a topic of debate as its use seems rather inconsistent across the league.
With symptoms that may not arise until later, immediate diagnosis is not always possible. That's understandable. But one look at the way Weise wobbled to his bench with the assistance of Subban after the hit should have been a pretty good indication that this was a player who need not return to the game. If there is a hint of doubt when it comes to head injuries, that should be enough.
David Shoalts of the Globe & Mail recently wrote about the secrecy with which the NHL and NHLPA guard the concussion statistics. They are not public and may not ever be made public. Pending litigation is a big reason for it. That, and the league's teams are also notoriously secretive when it comes to naming injuries. That makes tracking concussions and holding teams accountable to player safety practices so difficult.
But this is an area that simply has to be examined further by the league. We can't say definitively that Weise does indeed have a concussion, but it's not unfair to say the league isn't doing enough about it. There is no question they are better when it comes to concussions and player safety, but until there is a way of holding teams accountable and ensure that teams are making the best decisions regarding players' health, the NHL will have not gone far enough in its quest to fully protect its players.
Players won't like it, coaches won't like it, but too bad. The brains should have the final say.
The playoffs are where the league's "warrior" mentality is at its most dangerous. The importance of the games can no longer be placed over the importance of the players' health. It's part of the tradition, but as science catches up, traditions start to look a little less appealing.
Whether Weise was concussed or not, this is a discussion that has to be had, and soon.