On Saturday, Maple Leafs pest Colby Armstrong collided with Ryan Kesler. Armstrong was diagnosed with a broken toe. On Monday, he was throwing up and had blurred vision. Previously questionable for last night's game, Armstrong is now out indefinitely with a concussion, one he kept to himself for nearly 48 hours.
It's a credit to the media that nobody's jumping on the oh-so-easy "blame the trainers" bandwagon. And it's a testament to the inextricability of head trauma and hockey that Armstrong's brain smacked the side of his skull on a hit that wasn't hard enough to warrant a second thought. Here's Ron Wilson on what the team knew:
"Well, here's what happened. In the game the other night, he hit Ryan Kesler and actually he cracked his toe, but that wasn't an issue. He didn't tell the trainers or the doctors yesterday that he had his bell rung. He was nauseated, blurry vision, so he's got a concussion and we didn't know that until later in the afternoon. He's going to be out however long he needs to be out now."
Harrison Mooney at Yahoo nails it, I think, when he seizes on the importance of that last line. Concussion recovery is long and unpredictable and if there's a player who can't afford to be out that long, it's this one. Armstrong has played just over 100 minutes this season, and just 59 games in two years in Toronto, and he's only got one more year on his deal after this one. And above all, he's Colby Armstrong: an agitator who scores 30 points in a good season. Darryl Boyce has been called up from the Marlies to replace him, and there's every chance Boyce gives the team gives the Leafs some energy like he did during his late-season call-up last year. Colby Armstrong is replaceable. He's not Crosby or Letang or Giroux or Staal or Pronger or Michalek, who will get all the time in the world to get to 100 percent before coming back.
So Armstrong has every reason in the world to conceal a concussion, and one overpowering reason not to. It must be reiterated that hiding injuries is as old as sport itself—no one wants to get a reputation for being frangible, or give up your spot to some kid who won't give it back, or miss the rush of competition. If a player can go, he'll go. But it also must be reiterated, and re-reiterated, that concussions are not ACL tears, that brain trauma is not a bone bruise, and that a sad, doomed life of paralysis and feeding tubes and wasting away in front of loved ones is not the same as needing a walker when you're 70 because your knee has no cartilage.