One of the defining moments of Kariya's career came during the 2003 Stanley Cup finals. In Game 6 in Anaheim, Kariya laid motionless on the ice for several minutes after a crushing open-ice hit by New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Stevens.
But Kariya returned later in the game and scored the winning goal that forced a Game 7.
Highly skilled and a stickler for details big and small when it came to preparation, Kariya became a cautionary tale even before the NHL had turned its attention to keeping its best players safe. Kariya suffered his first concussion in 1996 and another in 1998.
Mark Lovell, one of the continent's top concussion doctors and a man familiar with NHL players, told Kariya last season that the forward suffered brain damage and wasn't able to play.
"He said to me, 'No one in my profession would clear you to play this season,' " Kariya recalled.
Lovell also told Kariya that if it had been up to him, he would have suggested Kariya retire right then and there.
"I was shocked," Kariya said.