With training camp for the 2011-2012 NHL season quickly approaching the status of the number one player in the world is still in question. Sidney Crosby, the 24 year-old superstar center for the Pittsburgh Penguins and probable future inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame, has been sidelined by a concussion since receiving two blows to the head in consecutive games in early January.
At the time, Crosby had built a considerable lead over his competition and was on pace to set career highs for goals, assists, and points Now his future in the NHL is in doubt. Will Crosby be able to come back at all? Concussions have ended more than one career; will Crosby be the next?
If he can come back, will he? There has been speculation that the potential of future concussions may prompt the young phenom to hang up his skates willingly. After all, he as already reached the pinnacle of the sport, leading his team to the Stanley Cup Championship and scoring the overtime goal that won the Olympic gold medal for Canada. What more does he have to prove? Fortunately for hockey fans, Crosby appears to be eager to return to play in the NHL.
If he does come back, though, will he be able to regain his form? Or will the mental and physical effects of his concussion prevent him from reclaiming his spot at the top? Eric Lindros, another potential candidate for the Hall of Fame, was never able to be the dominating player he once was after suffering a concussion at the shoulder of true hall-of-famer Scott Stevens. Marc Savard, once the best player on the Bruins, is attempting a comeback after being concussed in March 2010 and again in February 2011, but he continues to be hampered by the effects of those concussions. Will Crosby suffer the same fate, or will he be capable of becoming an elite player again?
At this moment, no one knows. Not even Sid. Though our understanding and treatment of concussions has progressed in recent years, there remains much mystery. Ultimately, we will all have to wait and see. The good news is, Crosby has been cleared for on-ice workouts and has been taking to the ice at a rink near his home in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. Assuming no concussion symptoms reappear, he will then be cleared for contact, perhaps even in time for training camp.
The real question is, though, what can be done to protect players like Crosby in the future? Thanks to the rule changes following the 2004-2005 lockout, the pace of the game has never been faster. The players are bigger, too, and they wear equipment reminiscent of armor from the Middle Ages. The result has been a series of concussions suffered by both star and role players alike.
No league wants to lose its superstar in the prime of his career. Or any player at any stage, for that matter. Understanding that there will always be risks, what steps (if any) can the NHL take to minimize the danger of concussions for its players? Or has the league already done enough by limiting certain kinds of shots to the head? What do you think?