The saga after Jimmy Vesey’s world closed


ST. PAUL, Minn. — The crowd at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville is never quiet. But when Jimmy Vesey got hit in the head with a backwards shoulder-elbow combination from Predators forward Filip Forsberg on Feb. 3, he felt the noise of those 17,113 dimming — and the Rangers young forward knew something was wrong.

“I was a little dazed right away,” Vesey told The Post on Tuesday morning before a game against the Wild. “Went down, and it’s weird because the crowd goes quiet. And it goes right to my head, and I was holding my head. That’s what they say is one of the signs of a concussion or a blow to the head. Your first instinct [is to grab your head].”

Vesey stayed on the ice for a little while in that position — on his knees and elbows, with his hands around his head and his eyes closed. He eventually got up and left a pool of blood, dripping from his mouth, to color the ice a dark magenta, as the hit had cut his lower lip open. As he went back to the locker room under his own power, he had some mumbled words for the officials, who didn’t make a call on the play (while Forsberg would eventually get suspended for three games).

Back in the room, Vesey basically said he felt fine while he received a few stitches in the lip to close the wound. He came back out and played one more shift in the second period, but when he got back to the bench, head trainer Jim Ramsay was calling for him. Vesey said his first reaction was to say he was OK, but then veteran Rick Nash was the one to look down the bench and tell Vesey to listen.

“I know I was telling Rammer, ‘No.’ But Rick actually was like, ‘Just go,’” Vesey said. “I think as a hockey player, you don’t want to come out. But it’s out of your hands. Better to be safe, because they say if you get hit again before healing, sometimes it’s exponentially worse.”

Vesey was listening to the right guy, as Nash has gone through his share of injuries, including concussions. And Vesey was absolutely right that most of the information coming out about the effects of concussions on long-term brain health say that suffering multiple concussions without sufficient time to recover is a large contributor to later deterioration.

Despite the fact that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is still citing studies that say the opposite, the league does have “independent” concussions spotters in every arena. Vesey doesn’t know if it was them or his medical staff who made the decision he needed to be checked out, but he still went off and complied.

Henrik Lundqvist checks on Vesey.AP

The 24-year-old out of Harvard then missed the next three games, finally getting back to practice with a non-contact jersey on Thursday and then a full practice on Saturday. He returned to score the game-winning goal off his arm against the Jets in Winnipeg on Sunday afternoon, the second win in a row for the Blueshirts after the front office had declared they are selling off assets in the lead-up to the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

Vesey is not one of those guys, despite the fact he’s set to be a restricted free agent (with arbitration rights) this summer. But they do want more production than his 11 goals and 18 points through 53 games, as well as more consistency away from the puck. His return against the Jets was on a line with David Desharnais and Jesper Fast, and he and the coaching staff seemed rather pleased with his 13:54 of ice time.

“He played well,” coach Alain Vigneault said after the game. “Didn’t have a lot of practice time. Obviously looking for his legs and his hands there. And I thought he worked real hard.”

The hope was that Vesey would not let this injury affect the way he plays. The ballyhooed free-agent signing of last summer has an edge to his game, and when he’s on, he gets to those tough areas of the ice — a far more difficult task if you’re thinking about the health of your brain the whole time.

“I’ve never had [a concussion], but I know sometimes guys that have had four or five, it might affect them,” Vesey said. “I’m just trying to play the same way.”



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