Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sidney Crosby

NHL fans know that Sid the Kid is a superstar and captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Some may disagree, but it could be argued Crosby has Gretzky-ish abilities on the ice. Like Gretzky, it's seemingly magical what he can do with the puck at times. Now you see it, now you don't, and the next thing -- it's in the net.

Also like Gretzky, Crosby's doesn't possess an imposing physical presence, being merely of average height and actually somewhat slim of build. Some NHL players make their livings crashing into the boards with opposing players, others standing in front of the net attempting to create a blind spot for the goalie, and hoping to get a deflection of a shot. Sadly, still others get paid very well to be "enforcers".

Even though he's 24 now, Crosby was identified many years ago by scouts as one of those "freaks" that only come along every few decades. His skill level was off the charts. Yes, he's made a lot of money and even hoisted the Stanley Cup, but there's something much more important. Head injuries.

Crosby's suffered a couple of severe concussions, the last one putting him out of action for 10 months. Remember, as a professional player, particularly of his stature, Crosby undoubtedly was subjected to untold batteries of the highest technological diagnostic procedures and best doctors in the world, to monitor his condition. First he was medically cleared to skate, then limited no-contact practice, then full-contact practice -- amongst his own teammates --  then the real deal going back up against other NHL teams. Everyone seems to forget -- 10 months is a very long time when it comes to getting over a "concussion". Something never seemed right about this....

Recently, Crosby had what looked to be an innocent body-to-body collision, with one of his own teammates, of all things, and now he's back out again, with some recurring "post-concussion" symptoms. This is a very scary thing.

Sid's playing it down, saying he knows where he was before, and it's "not like that", but it's hard to believe. If it was simply something minor, like a headache, he wouldn't take himself out of action. Further, how much could he even know about what happened before? He was knocked into never-never land on the ice. When he eventually came to his senses and thinking rationally is anybody's guess. Even the doctors don't profess to know that. Despite which team you may root for, compassion dictates that we all hope Crosby fully recovers from what currently ails him, and goes on to a long and spectacular career in the NHL.

One more comparison to Gretzky. For whatever reason, Wayne never seemed to absorb the "monster hit", especially to the head. Was he craftier? Better anticipation or peripheral vision? Knew when to hold em, knew when to fold em, and knew when to skate away? I don't know, but all sports fans should sit up and pay attention to what's happening with Sid the Kid these days -- for a lot of different reasons. Some biased hockey team reporters might note how Crosby's absence gives their home team an advantage over an upcoming contest with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they're missing the bigger picture. It's supposed to be about playing against the other team's best.

The hockey purists will say -- stuff happens during the course of a game. It's just the way it goes. Whatever it takes to win. I used to believe that, but times have changed, and so has my opinion.

Get in great shape. Do your homework. Practice hard and play harder. Strive to be the best you can be.

But dammit, there's more important things in life than winning a game, a trophy, a ring, and being in a parade, no matter what it takes.

Ask Sidney. Even at the tender age of 24, I suspect he's starting to comprehend that.

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