I caught up with Brooks Laich on Thursday after practice to talk to him about concussions. The Washington Capitals forward and team’s NHL Players’ Association representative had some outspoken comments about concussion protocol in October, so this was a follow-up to that.
Here’s the full transcript:
You talked about the league babysitting players in October. With all that’s happened this year, have you changed your mind at all?
Brooks Laich: “Not really. I just don’t want people to automatically assume because a player takes a hard hit that it’s a concussion. Hard hits happen. You look at the other night, Brent Seabrook was knocked out and he played the next night in Pittsburgh and I watched him play [Wednesday] night against Montreal. I don’t want everybody to just say every hard hit is a concussion because taking hits and receiving hits is part of the game, and I don’t want players to miss action because there’s so many red flags being thrown up in the air.
“That being said, I’m all for safety. It’s a unique injury – head injuries are unique injuries. I’m all for safety, but I also don’t think you can eliminate the physical aspect of the game.”
About the protocol and guys having to come out of a game and go to a quiet room – is that something you can accept because it’s in players’ best interest? We had talked before and you said a little bit about protecting you from yourself. Is that what the purpose serves?
Laich: “OK, that’s fine. Now what happens if it’s Game 7 of the playoffs- it’s the second round, and you get hit hard with seven minutes left? Are you going to go to the quiet room for 10 minutes, or are you going to say, ‘You know what, let me finish this out and 10 minutes from now we’ll go in the quiet room or something. It’s fine and dandy in October and November, but how are we really going to govern this thing come May or June is the question.”
Marc Staal played with a concussion last year – including the playoffs – now he’s missed a lot of time because of it. If that happened in the seventh game like that – do you hide it and say I’m feeling fine?
Laich: “I really don’t know. The whole concussion and the protocol thing is such a gray area. Everything has to be handled on an individual basis. If you look at the other day, Colby Armstrong hid the symptoms or tried to hide the symptoms and hide his concussion because he wanted to keep playing because he felt he needed to be in the lineup. He’s been injured. There’s reasons people do it.
“I totally understand the safety aspect. On our team, if Jay Beagle’s not ready to play, I don’t think he should play. I would want to play. That’s in me – that’s built in me that I want to play the hockey game. If I’m alive I think I can play the hockey game. But sometimes you do need to be protected from yourself. It’s such a difficult issue, I don’t know if there’s any way we’re ever going to solve it. You obviously have to look after players’ safety, but you also have to trust the players a little bit that they know their body, and if they say they’re OK, hopefully they are OK and nothing bad happens.”