By Mark Madden
Beaver County Times
August 23, 2011
The big question for Penguins fans is: When will Sidney Crosby play?
The answer: When he's medically cleared. Not before.
In the end, the rumors will amount to nothing. Crosby will play soon, or later, or never again. What's said via prelude will be quickly forgotten.
The Penguins are monitoring the situation. Uh, I think. General Manager Ray Shero said the right things without really saying anything. It makes you wonder if the Penguins know any more than we do.
Crosby's silence is deafening. His inner circle has grown smaller, tighter and more insular.
Crosby's silence spawns the rumors. Crosby has no obligation to address the stinking media every time he has (or doesn't have) a headache. A word from Crosby, though, might keep panic from spreading through the streets (and talk shows, and Internet forums). But Crosby is evidently unconcerned by that.
Tumors, a spinal fracture, all that nonsense: Impossible. The silliest of gossip. If big hits caused cancer, James Harrison would kill more people than big tobacco. (Give Harrison time. He still might.)
Setbacks, headaches: Believable, certainly. It's part and parcel of post-concussion syndrome. Some never beat it, so those who ponder the premature end of Crosby's career are not out of line. If problems are present seven months later, who can conclusively argue against their permanence?
Who decides when Crosby plays? Is it UPMC's Dr. Michael Collins, the lab coat in charge? Or is it Crosby himself? Don't you have to play before you know you can't? Take a hit before you know you shouldn't?
Crosby has a history of sinus headaches. When he had his reported setback in Tampa during the playoffs, some within the organization thought Crosby misdiagnosed a sinus headache. Who determines the difference?
Are different methods of treatment being pursued? What about protective options? Ex-NFL safety Mark Kelso, a North Hills High School graduate, beat concussions with an outer-padded helmet.
Eventually, Mario Lemieux tested his back. Eventually, Crosby will play again. He won't retire at 24.
There are lots more questions than answers. And the gossip persists.
Josh Rimer of Sirius Satellite Radio says Crosby won't be ready to start the new campaign. There's a report that some of Crosby's teammates thought he should have tried to play in last season's playoffs. That's typical of a hockey locker room. Jordan Staal played in the 2010 postseason after his right foot was almost sliced in half by a skate blade.
But your foot isn't your brain. Injure your foot permanently, you limp. Injure your brain permanently, you drool. Many concussion cases have sabotaged themselves by returning too early.
If there is any bad feeling toward Crosby among his teammates, it will dissipate quickly when he starts playing again. A lot of things will return to normal when Crosby starts playing again.
Also deafening is the NHL's silence regarding its meal ticket. I've watched David Steckel's Winter Classic hit on Crosby hundreds of times. It had zilch to do with the play. The puck was nowhere near. Malicious? Perhaps not. But it was absolutely unnecessary.
Yet the NHL has done nothing but throw a lot of talk at the problem. Sure, Vancouver's Aaron Rome got suspended four games for headhunting Boston's Nathan Horton during the Stanley Cup finals. He should have got 20. The only person the NHL wants to punish significantly is Matt Cooke.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).