- Craig Custance
In a moment like this, everything stops. When a player lays motionless on the ice, surrounded by doctors and trainers like Columbus forward Artem Anisimov was on Thursday night in Detroit, there are no teams or allegiances.
In this case, as Anisimov was strapped to a stretcher, players from both sides lined up on the ice, some on one knee, trying to figure out what had just happened. Anisimov got tangled with Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey, and his head hit the ice hard. Players on both teams were looking for any signs of movement from the forward.
"I was sick to my stomach. Legit sick to my stomach," Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski said after the game. "It's something that you kind of have nightmares about."
Anisimov was taken to the hospital and kept overnight for observation, but the update after the game from coach Todd Richards was positive. Anisimov was alert and stable. It sounded like he was going to be OK.
But that incident and others like it are ugly reminders that despite all its success in attendance, interest and television ratings since the lockout ended, the NHL still has a very serious concussion and head injury problem. To its credit, the league and its general managers have been aggressively changing rules in recent years to outlaw hits to the head.
However, anytime a player lays motionless on the ice, it's a reminder of how dangerous this game is, how one moment without any malicious intent can potentially end a career.
That's why it's even more important to continue cracking down on the dangerous plays that are preventable. Maybe it's a minimum suspension for any hit to the head. Maybe it's another honest discussion about fighting.
Earlier this month, Wisniewski suffered his own concussion. On Feb. 2, he crashed into the boards, and for him, details from the night remain hazy. He told teammates after the game that he was fine, but he only knows that because they relayed it to him later. He does remember asking doctors to check his legs because they were numb -- that's something hard to erase from anyone's memory.
Two weeks later, his wife, Nicole, had the couple's first child, a girl named Jamie Marie. Now, when there's a moment like Anisimov's, that's who he thinks about. Players on both sides likely had similar thoughts.
"Even though we're battling and it's a war out there, it's a big brotherhood," Wisniewski said. "It's our livelihood. We're playing hockey for a living to provide for our families."