Make no mistake about it: the concussion to Sidney Crosby's a tragedy for the NHL. Steven Stamkos said as much in an interview, when he said:
"It obviously would take away from our game not having him in the lineup, so hopefully everything goes well."
Crosby is the face of the league, and the league's best all-round player. He's a lynchpin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, a star center on a team that contends annually. His not being on the ice makes the Penguins, not a worse team, but a less stable one. You have a player who is the most marketable star the game's had in decades who isn't able to even do satisfactory off-ice workouts. It's a problem for the Penguins from a player standpoint, and it's an issue for the league from a monetary point of view.
Crosby, who was concussed by David Steckel in last season's Winter Classic, played the next game, where he was hit again by Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman; a hit that clearly intensified the concussion's effects. The Penguins were accused of being irresponsible with their best player's health, but frankly, is the caliber of the player an issue? If this were another player on their squad at the time - say, Deryk Engelland - would there have been the league wide outcry over irresponsibly playing him after a nasty hit?
Pundits are publicly saying that Crosby needs to retire for his health. Obvious concern for his future health is making them willing to sacrifice a bright young career to the alter of uncertainty. On the opposite side of impracticality, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune lights up Crosby's camp for not being forthcoming about the condition of his recovery, basically implying that the fans are entitled to know the full truth about the center. Should communication be clearer between the Pens and Crosby? Sure, if there's anything to communicate.
As Blues fans have learned since David Perron was concussed by Joe Thornton on accident on November 4th, it's a waiting game. No two people recover from concussions the same, if they recover at all. That's the thing with them - it's not just a waiting game, it's a guessing game. There's no guaranteeing that Perron or Crosby will bounce back like Patrice Bergeron or Peter Mueller have. There's no guaranteeing that they'll come back at all.
Perron has yet to participate in on-ice workouts and has not been cleared to skate. It took him several months to be able to drive, let alone work out. In an interview with the Belleville News-democrat's Norm Sanders, Blues GM Doug Armstrong mentioned this regarding Perron's potential to play with the Blues this year:
"I anticipate that, but this is not an injury where I can go to our doctors and say 'What is the timeline?"' Armstrong said. "This is into an area where there's no real timeline. We hope that he gets back very quickly and know he wants to play very quickly as well."
There's concern there, but is anyone accusing Perron's agent, Allan Walsh, from being less than forthcoming? Has Perron had to issue a statement on the Blues' website a la Crosby? Was Adam Proteau of The Hockey News motivated to wax eloquent on why concussions are an ongoing problem for the sport after Perron has been ill for ten months with no progression towards playing a game on the horizon? The llist of players concussed that he has is a long one of some of the best in the league: Perron, Andy McDonald, Mark Savard, Max Pacioretty. The players he's listed as lost are depressing as well. But after Kariya was leveled by Scott Stevens at center ice, after Eric Lindross was lost because of multiple concussions, where was this outpouring of concern from press, fans, and the league?
Why does it take Crosby getting hurt to finally bring attention to an issue that's been ending careers for years? It's unfortunate for the Penguins and I wish Crosby a speedy recovery, but I don't feel any worse when reading about his injury than I do regarding Perron's or anyone else's. Crosby gets no special attention from me because of who he is; Perron is just as essential a cog to the Blues as Crosby is to the Penguins. Perron's young and talented and has a great career ahead of him as well. I want them both to recover and come back, and I want the NHL to finally realize that this is a serious problem that's been plaguing the game for years.
But my concern and my wish for increased safety standards didn't start on January 1st, 2011.