The Chicago Blackhawks clinched their second Stanley Cup since 2010 in thrilling fashion on Monday, scoring two goals in a 17-second span with less than two minutes to play to win 3–2 over the Boston Bruins. Outside of those two goals, however, the most memorable play of the night came in the first period, when Blackhawks defenseman Andrew Shaw turned the puck over in his own zone and then took a shot off the face. The blast left him face-down on the ice, unresponsive and apparently unconscious.
Watch it, via The Big Lead:
It isn’t clear whether Shaw suffered a concussion. But he sure looked unconscious afterward, and the hit required stitches below his left eye. His quick return — the shot happened with 4 minutes left in the first period and Shaw was back on the ice to start the second — was enough to make me wonder whether he should have been on the ice so soon after taking such a violent blow to the head. NHL policy stipulates that team personnel evaluate a player in a quiet place using the SCAT2 concussion test, a model that measures players suspected of having a head injury against a previously established baseline. Only a team doctor can send a player back on the ice. The test, theoretically, shouldn’t take long to conduct — it includes a quick diagnosis of symptoms, a cognitive and memory assessment, and balance and coordination tests. The timing, right before a 10-minute intermission, should have left plenty of time to conduct that test, but even it isn’t a guarantee, since concussion symptoms often take 24-to-48 hours to show up.
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, have come under scrutiny for their treatment of concussions before. The organization faced questions about whether Shaw returned too quickly from a concussion earlier this season. And before Game 6, questions arose about whether it was an “upper body injury” that caused captain Jonathan Toews to miss the third period of Game 5, as the Blackhawks claimed, or if the team was using the phrase that is now a common euphemism for concussions on NHL injury reports. Toews played multiple games after suffering a concussion in 2012 before Chicago shut him down to heal, and he admitted then that he was concerned about the effect concussions could have on his post-hockey life. Yet there he was Monday, potentially dealing with a head injury and continuing “to play despite taking three more shots to the head” in Game 6, as Daily Herald columnist Barry Rozner put it.The Blackhawks didn’t address Shaw’s situation after the game, so it’s unclear whether Shaw was evaluated for a possible concussion. For his sake and the game’s, I hope he was and I hope he didn’t have a concussion. I know, though, that even if he did, he most likely would have returned to the game, because in professional sports, playing through pain is a mark of toughness and seen as a necessary sacrifice if it leads to victory. And more than professional sports, this is hockey, where players are known for playing through more pain than anyone else. And this is the Stanley Cup Finals, the most important stage in the game. If you can’t play through pain for that, the reasoning goes, you probably shouldn’t bother lacing up your skates ever again. That’s what scares me most, though, because sufficiently addressing concussions requires treating them properly and realizing that some pain isn’t worth playing through, no matter the situation and no matter the score.