Back in Black: The Return of the Planet’s Greatest Hockey Player
Twenty games into the NHL season, and donning the black sweater of the hometown Penguins, Crosby made his return. And what a return it was!
With his debut announced only 24 hours prior, you had to be living under a rock if you didn’t know that Sid the Kid would be hitting the ice Monday night. It was on the tip of everybody’s tongue, it was the main topic around the office, at the schoolyard, and highlighted on every major network across the country. How would he perform? Was there too much pressure? Is he coming back too early? Would he score? What is going to happen when he gets hit? Well, all of those questions and more would be answered during a special (weekday) presentation of Hockey Night In Canada on CBC. The CBC network only broadcasts games during the week in the playoffs, but for this game they would make an exception. And that had critics asking why? Lots of top players have come back late in the season after being hurt, what makes Crosby so special? I mean he’s a good player, but he’s no Gretzky or Lemieux, why does he get national television coverage for a meaningless Monday night game against a bad team?
Well, there are a ton of reasons. Lets start by saying; he IS the best player in the world, and it is a pleasure to watch him skate every time he is on the ice. He is also (still) the face of the NHL, and in some markets the game is still riding on his shoulders. Even more so with the disappearance of Ovechkin’s lovable swagger. In Canada, he is our best international weapon, and most likely the captain of our team heading to Russia in 2014. And then there’s the medical aspect. Lindros was the guy that brought the seriousness of concussions to the hockey world. And now Crosby is the guy that has brought the advancement of concussion treatment to the general public. As CBC had run a segment before the game showing stages of his treatment, the doctors involved, and really how knowledgeable they are about brain injuries these days. Also, years ago there was another Penguin (Mario Lemieux) that had a triumphant return to hockey after his initial retirement, and it was a huge success! But finally, every fan that simply loves the game of hockey was holding their breath with anticipation. Just hoping that we didn’t lose another of hockey’s greats way before his time. Just praying that he would be able to return to his elite level, and continue to captivate us with his skill, vision, and passion for the game. But if for some reason your still don’t think he is deserving, I guess he’ll just have to prove it to you, once again…
The atmosphere in the sold out Consol Energy Center was electric. And when the man of the hour stepped on the ice, it hit deafening decibels. With every fan in the building holding a “welcome back Sid!” sign. And every eyeball glued to number 87, it’s easy to say the pressure was on. Well Sidney is no stranger to pressure (2009 Stanley Cup, 2010 Olympics etc.) and this was no exception. He hit the ice for his first shift, and already had a swagger in his stride. Eager to make up for lost time, he was hard on the puck, and hungry to score. But how would he react to being hit for real, and not just a jostle in practice? That question was also answered quickly, as he was run hard into the end boards by the big Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic. Sid bounced back on his feet no worse for wear. Ok, well Lemieux scored just 30 seconds into his comeback game, and finished with 3 points. Would Sidney be able to light the lamp? Well like I was saying, Crosby came out flying. No he wouldn’t score 30 seconds into the game, but 4 and a half minutes later he did. He took a pass up the middle from Dupuis, ripped by the defense with a burst of speed, and deposited the puck up and under the bar with a fierce back-hand. Pandemonium broke out in the building, and back on the ice, Crosby was jacked. He pumped his fists and let an f-bomb fly as he was swarmed by his teammates. The usually classy, and composed Crosby, apologized for letting one slip after the goal, but it just shows you the raw emotion he has for the game. And how fired up he was to be back. Oh, and he wasn’t done there… He added another goal and 2 assists, finishing with 4 points in the 5-0 rout. He came back on the ice with 30 seconds to go for a curtain call after the whole crowd was chanting his name. Crosby! Crosby! Crosby! It was truly his night.
After the game he was given the first star for his performance, but when asked about it, he simply said that he still had a lot to work on. He then went to retrieve the game puck, and not for his trophy case as you might assume. He gave it to Fleury for getting the shutout and winning the game. He is a consummate professional, a true team player, and at just 24 years of age, one of the best captains in the league.
So what’s next for the superstar? He proved he could take a hit, score goals, and still perform at an elite level. What’s next for Crosby? Well, if you ask him he’s just concentrating on his next game, and the teams next win. But this team was one of the leagues best without him. Is it possible we are going to see another cup in Pittsburgh? And what about the man himself? 4 points in 1 game, with 61 to go… Should Phil Kessel be looking over his shoulder? Can he continue to follow in Lemieux’s footsteps and win a scoring title after being out for so many games?
Well, regardless of what happens, two things are for certain; Crosby is back! And he means business!
…and that is the last word