BROSSARD, Que.— This was supposed to be a bounce back year for Michael Bournival.
After making his NHL debut in 2013 and leading all Montreal rookies in scoring with 14 points in 60 regular season games before appearing in 14 of the Canadiens’ 17 Stanley Cup playoff games in 2014, injuries robbed Bournival of the opportunity to make his mark in the 2014-15 season.
Depth on Monreal’s bottom two lines made it hard for him to break through in October, leaving Bournival as a scratch for the majority of the month before the Canadiens tapped him for a game in November.
Then this happened.
A month later, Bournival was back in Montreal’s lineup, but having to play catch-up proved impossible. He was relegated to less than nine minutes of ice-time in all but four of his 29 games with the Canadiens before he was eventually demoted to the Hamilton Bulldogs in late February.
But after appearing in only five games with the Bulldogs his season was over. As it turned out, Bournival had been hiding symptoms of dizziness from a concussion. He even played through it in his final games with the Canadiens before the demotion.
In May, he told reporters that he had been cleared of concussion symptoms. And on July 16, without much bargaining power on his side, Bournival was forced to accept a one-year, two-way contract worth $600,000.
If there’s a silver lining to this story it’s that the Canadiens will risk exposing Bournival to waivers if they elected to demote him to the AHL at any point this season. The sense was that he’d be given a real opportunity to stick with the team, and if not, he’d probably get his chance with another NHL team.
But when the Canadiens opened training camp on Wednesday, and the players got set for physical testing, Bournival began to feel the lingering symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.
He had participated in a few exercises before failing his neurological exam. As a result, Bournival is now being held out indefinitely by team physicians.
"For sure [I’m disappointed for Bournival]," said coach Michel Therrien Saturday. "He’s a kid that works really hard."
This isn’t the first time Bournival has had to deal with this. A concussion kept the 23-year-old out of action from Feb. 7 to March 23 in his NHL rookie season.
The Shawinigan, Que., native was originally selected in the third round of the 2010 NHL draft by the Colorado Avalanche. In November of that year, he was traded to Montreal for defenceman Ryan O’Byrne.
Bournival played his major junior hockey in his hometown for the Cataractes of the QMJHL. He captained them to their very first Memorial Cup win in 2012.
Bournival’s story is an example of why the NHL will have league-appointed concussion spotters in all 30 arenas this coming season.
"I don’t have anything against [the league appointing concussion spotters], but one thing I know, safety for the players—we really pay attention to that," said Therrien. "If it can help players and teams [to have independent spotters], why not?"
In October of 2014, former players filed a class-action lawsuit against the NHL for the league’s failure to properly warn players of concussion risks. The suit also claims the NHL promoted violent play despite having knowledge and resources to better prevent head injuries.
The NHL’s attempt to have the suit dismissed was denied by a federal judge on March 25, 2015.