On Monday night the prodigal son returned to the NHL after missing ten months with a concussion. It was a special night because the best hockey player in the world was back and he was back with a vengeance. Six minutes into the game he scored a goal and went on to score another and tally another two assists. This was a great story and the game of hockey really needed a positive story after the last six months it’s had. Love him or hate him Sidney Crosby’s performance was captivating and exactly what we hockey fans needed. It was two and a half hour of peace.
For that two and a half hours I wasn’t scoreboard watching during the game like I usually do, I didn’t check on Monday Nighter, and I didn’t watch the game on PVR as I usually do (no commercials). Last night I didn’t think of who the next coach to be fired would be, which players where on the trading block, or who was going to be the next player suspended by Brendan Shanahan. I wasn’t thinking of the prevention of head shots, removal of no touch icing, increase the goal nets size, and other things to better the game (don’t get me wrong I love this stuff). No, for those two and a half hours the game of hockey was perfect. It made me take a step back and remember how beautiful this game really is.
It was like that first gulp of cold air that you get when you step on community club natural ice that tingles you lungs. The first cut your skate makes gripping into the ice. The slap of the first perfectly dropped puck on the freshly re-surfaced ice. It was that sentimental feeling that everything was right for the moment. I wasn’t alone, if you checked the twitter of the majority of sports reporters the only news was all about the greatness of Crosby’s return. No one cared about anything else going on in the NHL. The next day we will be back criticizing the game and the players and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It makes for great arguments but this moment was a great escape for reality.
Sidney Crosby wasn’t just another player returning from injury, as that happens daily. Before Crosby was injured he was on pace to have a 132 point season which was unheard of in the last decade. Had he stayed healthy he would have won the scoring race by a whopping 28 points. He still finished 32nd in the NHL scoring race after paying a measly 41 games. His length of his absence also was significant in concussion education.
If Crosby would have returned in a month this wouldn’t be a story (although if he returned that early we would probably be talking about why the best player is still away from the game because of a 2nd concussion). I could only wish I would have been that educated with my last concussion and took the rest that was needed. We have seen players be on the shelf for a long time with concussions like Marc Savard (who probably will never play again), David Perron, Raitis Ivanas, and even great players like Eric Lindros and Paul Kariya that had to retire because of concussions. With Crosby being absent for so long everyone following the NHL had to take notice of the issues. The way he returned to the game it appeared that he was the same player he was before the injury and it makes me believe the extended rest was the right call.
There will be no more questions of when the best player will return to the lineup. His absence from the NHL was sorely missed as he is the best ambassador of the game today. Sure the Phil Kessel’s, Claude Giroux’s, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have been great stories 20 games in but they can’t carry the league on their shoulders (at least not for Hopkins). He knows how to embrace the biggest moments and thrive as we seen last night, the Olympics, and throughout his NHL career. Welcome back Mr. Crosby, thanks for the two and a half hours of serenity.