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The one-man aphorism factory that was Samuel Clemens once wrote that "the weakest of all weak things is a virtue which has not been tested in the fire."

This past weekend, the National Hockey League's beefed-up concussion protocol had a metaphorical dip into the flames.

The Edmonton Oilers' 19-year-old superstar, Connor McDavid, was lifted from the second period of a closely-fought game against the Minnesota Wild after whacking his chin on the ice, hard.

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The decision was made not by on-ice officials or team therapists, but by concussion spotters following the game from league headquarters in New York.

In a sport where head injuries are endemic, this is progress. Never mind that it has taken several years of class-action litigation and the spectre of a potentially ruinous jury award to push the league into getting serious.

After the game Mr. McDavid was incredulous at being removed – he said he felt fine – and not a bit miffed. Well, good.

It is indisputably contentious for one of the NHL's best, the new face-of-the-league, to be led to the quiet room with a game hanging in the balance.

But having the willingness to place long-term health above the immediate result – the Oilers ended up losing the game – is only helpful if it applies to everyone, from superstar to scrub.

Dismissive, all-too-typical post-game comments like "it's a man's game" (Oiler winger Patrick Maroon) illustrate the importance of removing the decision from the hands of players and coaches.

Unlike Sidney Crosby, the game's pre-eminent player, Mr. McDavid doesn't have a long history of documented concussions. The new rules may make it less likely he'll have one. Another virtue of the new concussion protocol: If stars are forced to sit due to blows to the head, the league may be forced to consider changing the rules to reduce blows to the head.

To err on the side of caution is indeed a virtue. The next question is whether this can survive the crucible of the NHL playoffs.