Brooks Orpik Probably Concussed, Keeps Playing Anyway Because Hockey

  • Zach Berger

With the Penguins trailing 2-0 in the conference finals series to the Bruins, Wednesday night’s game was a must-win. Midway through the second overtime period in what was as good of a playoff hockey game as you’re going to get, Pens defenseman Brooks Orpik went to control a puck behind the net when Bruins winger Milan Lucic launched him into the boards from behind. Watch the hit below:

This was a rare case where Orpik was on the receiving end of a monster hit. His head smacked into the glass and Orpik had to stop and hold on to the boards for support before lazily gliding off the ice and to the bench. A close-up of Orpik’s face told the entire story: a dazed, foggy, 10,000-mile stare that said, “I have a concussion.” The announcers, recognizing how odd it is to see a player have to gain composure leaning against the boards, pointed out how stunned Orpik looked.

Just three minutes later, Orpik was back out for another shift. And then another. And then a third in which he in part allowed Patrice Bergeron to get open in the slot for the game-winner. It is hard to tell upon watching the replay of that final goal what was to blame: Orpik still feeling the effects of the bruising hit from Lucic or if a quick turn of the head allowed Bergeron to gain position on the unsuspecting defender.

And that begs the question: when a hockey player is hurt on a hit, but not badly enough that he needs to be helped off the ice, is it then necessary or warranted to take him out of the game? Should Pens head coach Dan Bylsma and the trainers sit one of their star defenders because of a potential concussion and risk losing the game without him on the ice? Or should they do that manly hockey thing and leave him out there even though he probably isn’t sure where he is or what his name is?

And the answer, of course, is that they were right to leave him in. This isn’t some pansy sport like football where you can get a fifteen-yard penalty for so much as rubbing helmets with an opposing ball-carrier. This is hockey, a sport for real men. A sport where you can break your leg and finish out the penalty kill anyway because you’d be less of a man if you skated to the bench.

I mean, Orpik’s teammates would probably laugh at him he sat out because of something as inconsequential as a measly little concussion. Besides, it’s not like the Penguins have any other competent defenders on the team (*cough* Kris Letang and Paul Martin and Matt Niskanen *cough*).

And get this: National Post reporter Bruce Arthur reported that Dan Bylsma said there were “[no] ramifications from that hit last night.” No big deal! It wasn’t even a concussion. Dan Bylsma said so himself and there is absolutely no reason not to doubt him. It’s not like a professional coach would ever say that a player was fine after a nasty when they actually had a concussion.

And concussions aren’t even a big deal. Nobody is scared about them. It’s not like a well-known player just announced his retirement because of concerns related to concussions. It’s not like there was a recent report detailing the long-term effects of multiple concussions on hockey players following retirement.

No. Like I said, they definitely made the right manly decision by leaving a probably concussed Brooks Orpik in the game.