The Canucks got halfway through the preseason without any significant injuries, just Micheal Ferland’s unknown illness keeping him out of action. On Monday night in Abbotsford, however, they had two.
According to the Canucks, both Brock Boeser and Oscar Fantenberg are in concussion protocol and were kept out of Wednesday’s practice. Hopefully both will be okay and will be able to take the time they need to fully recover.
Boeser’s injury, in particular, could have a significant impact on the Canucks’ fortunes this season. It’s a tough blow for him personally, as he was happy to have a completely healthy off-season to train and take a “huge step.” He already missed training camp due to contract negotiations and now will miss practice time and preseason games as he recovers.
The big question, however, is why Boeser wasn’t immediately removed from Monday’s game against the Ottawa Senators after he was hit into the boards. He didn’t go to the quiet room. He didn’t even miss a shift. When the Canucks scored on the 5-on-3 less than a minute later, Boeser was on the ice.
Given the extremely low stakes of the game, with no points on the line, it’s shocking that Boeser wasn’t taken out purely for precautionary reasons. The Canucks had nothing to lose by taking him out and everything to lose by keeping him in.
Of course, it shouldn’t matter that it was a meaningless preseason game. Head injuries need to be taken seriously, whether it’s a preseason game or Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. There’s a reason why the NHL has developed and adopted a concussion protocol, complete with independent concussion spotters that can remove players from a game to undergo testing.
Was there no concussion spotter in the building on Monday night because it was a neutral site game? The usual NHL stats trackers weren’t at the game, so it wouldn’t be surprising if other NHL staff weren’t on hand either.
Fantenberg, at least, left the game after he was hit simultaneously by two different Senators, one of them from behind in the numbers. There was one key difference between the two hits: Fantenberg stayed down, clearly in distress; Boeser popped back up to his feet, seemingly none the worse for wear.
The problem with concussions is that symptoms don’t always present themselves immediately or can be confused for something else. Some symptoms may not be noticed until days later. The concussion itself can make it difficult for the patient to self-diagnose.
“He felt fine until about three minutes left in the period,” said head coach Travis Green on Tuesday, which means that Boeser didn’t recognize the symptoms in himself until about half an hour after the hit.
The hit itself, however, should have been enough for someone else to pull Boeser off the ice. He went violently into the boards head first. Why wasn’t he removed from the game?
Green didn’t address why Boeser stayed in the game, but didn’t seem to think the hit itself was particularly egregious.
“I’ve watched it a few times. I think Brock gets turning a little bit, it’s a hockey play,” he said. “I haven’t had a chance to watch it a whole lot.”
Perhaps I’m missing something, but it doesn’t seem to require multiple viewings to condemn the hit by Chris Tierney. The view above looks bad for Boeser, the way he collides with the boards, but the wide angle view shows just how far Tierney traveled to deliver the hit, seeing Boeser’s numbers the entire way.
That’s an awful hit and there’s no defending it. There’s been no word from the Orwellian-named Department of Player Safety as to whether Tierney will be given a suspension, but it’s certainly deserving of one.
Now the Canucks just have to hope that Boeser’s injury is not severe enough to keep him out of the lineup long-term, as was the case for Sven Baertschi last season. That would be a disaster for the Canucks’ hopes of making the playoffs, but also, and more importantly, for Boeser and his long-term health.