So far in this shortened season Sidney Crosby has been nothing short of, well, Sidney Crosby. The best hockey player in the world continues to amaze this year after a scary two year stretch filled with injuries. But is wasn’t just any string of injuries that sidelined the superstar, it was the most concerning of all in the world of sports; concussions.
Long considered the best player in the world, Crosby had established himself as exactly that after his first five NHL seasons. Those included four seasons of at least 100 points (He scored 72 points in 53 games in 2007-2008), an Art Ross Trophy for the scoring title and Hart Trophy for the MVP of the NHL with 120 points in 2006-2007, a Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy in 2010, an Olympic Gold Medal (he scored the overtime game winning goal in the gold medal game for Canada vs. USA), two Stanley Cup Final appearances, and a Stanley Cup Championship in 2009. Safe to say, Sidney Crosby exploded into the league just as advertised. Then came the Winter Classic game on January 1, 2011 vs the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
At the time of the face-off for the NHL’s annual outdoor game Crosby was absolutely scorching the league, leading in both goals (32) and points (65) in 39 games played. But in the second period Crosby was blind sided by Washington’s David Steckel. He left the ice with the help of a trainer and though he did return for one shift, he was shut down for the rest of the game. He returned four days later for the Penguins regular season game against the Tampa Bay Lightening, and after an assist in the first period the captain of the Penguins was slammed with a questionable hit from Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman that caused his head to hit the boards with a great amount of force. Following the game, it was officially announced that Crosby had a concussion and it was the last time he touched the ice that season. The beginning of the next season was filled with uncertainty and uncertainty is exactly what followed. Crosby was in and out of the lineup due to his head problems and managed only 22 games played in 2011-2012 (But still managing 37 points).
Then the uncertainty of the lockout and Crosby’s true condition carried on into the off season. Crosby has always been the private type when it comes to the media and as the speculations circled about his health and whether he would play over in Europe during the lockout, the face of the NHL stayed relatively quiet. Some analysts on ESPN and TSN (Canada’s leading sports broadcasting company) predicted that his glory years were over and his concussion problems would dwindle his production in the years to follow. The media made sure to point out how the always dangerous “next big hit” could end the superstar’s career forever.
However, as the NHL has returned, so too has Sidney Crosby. The best player in the world has delivered once again for Penguins and hockey fans world wide. After 23 games played this season Crosby leads the NHL yet again with 36 points on 11 goals and 25 assists. After his incredible performance last night versus the Tampa Bay Lightening, in which he scored a goal and added an assist, it is safe to say the worries about Crosby can be put to rest. Not shying away from physical contact, Crosby is moving at faster speeds while playing stronger and tougher than he ever has before. Analysts are now unafraid to give him the title of the best player in the world. His Penguins, a leading Stanley Cup Championship contender, are now leading the Atlantic Division with a record of 15-8-0 and he is the sure pick for captain of Team Canada’s 2014 Olympic team.
Of course, the danger of another big hit forever looms over Crosby and who knows what his third or fourth concussion could do to his play. But the dangers of concussions loom over every athlete in every contact sport, so lets hope and wish for the sake of the NHL and hockey as a whole that the world’s most incredible talent stays healthy for years to come. Because for now, Ladies and Gentlemen, Sidney Crosby is officially back.
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