May 13, 2011 Leave a comment
We all remember the hit, in the midst of arguably the biggest NHL regular season game in years – the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. Just before the buzzer sounded at the end of the second period, Sidney Crosby coasting across the ice, when, almost out of nowhere, Capitals forward David Steckel flies into the frame, barreling into Crosby with his shoulder, knocking him almost unconscious as Sid the Kid slowly made his way off the ice keeled over, as if about to collapse.
Just four days later, in a play that happens multiple times per game, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman pushed Crosby into the boards, whereupon Sid’s head bounced off the glass face-first. The ensuing concussion(s) left Crosby unable to play for the remainder of the season, including the seven games of the Stanley Cup playoffs the Penguins were involved in.
Fans, players, executives, and media members alike can argue for years whether or not the two hits were legal, illegal, part of the game, etc. But the problem here is not whether or not there was punishment for the hits – a suspension is not going to heal Crosby’s noggin. The problem is that most of the hockey world doesn’t seem to understand just how serious of a blow this is to the health of the game.
This is a player who, before he was injured, was on pace to score 64 goals and post 132 points – both career highs for the best hockey player in the world. This is a player who, after hurting his knee in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup final, sat on the bench in pain, dying that he couldn’t help his teammates win the championship. This is a young kid who caused the entire country of Canada to jump up and roar, as he did, when the puck trickled through Ryan Miller and clinched the Gold Medal for Canada. This is, for all intents and purposes, the Wayne Gretzky of this generation.
This is also a guy who, through forums across the Internet, is being taunted and made fun of for, apparently, being some kind of cat, or having a certain body part, because “his head hurts a little bit.”
People just don’t seem to grasp the seriousness of this injury. Four months after the hits, Crosby is still having recurring symptoms after just skating around – with no contact. He is most likely another few months away from even being able to work out like he used to. If Crosby is never able to get back to normal, and his game suffers because of it, those in the hockey world don’t understand the impact it will have on the game. This is the sport’s most marketable player, and will be for the next 15 years. If he becomes a player who can only score 50 or 60 points per year, the NHL is going to lose one of the biggest reasons that people watch their sport.
There is no solution to the problem. Concussions heal with time. And whether he comes back at full health, struggles for the remainder of his career, or even retires early, nothing anyone does can change it. And whether you like him or not, you have to respect his talents and his ability to draw you into a game. All we can do is hope he comes back to full strength, with a vengeance, and wreaks havoc on the league once again.
Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.