Published on October 25th, 2012 | by James Conley0
Lockout Robbing Fans of Sidney Crosby
As Pittsburgh and Heinz Field hosted the 4th annual NHL Winter Classic, what should have been remembered as a great celebration of the city and its hockey, Penguins fans only remember the incidental collision with David Steckel late in the second period that sent captain Sidney Crosby spinning to the ice and back to Nova Scotia for the next six months while dealing with concussion-related symptoms.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Finally back at full health a year and a half later, proven by a physically brutal playoff round against Philadelphia this past spring in which he escaped unscathed, Crosby was back to his normal preseason routine of high-altitude training in Colorado with other NHL players. The problem for number 87 and many NHL players is that there is currently nothing to train for.
The National Hockey League is locked out for the second time in nine seasons. Without going into too great detail, a union-busting lawyer from the NBA (NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman) representing greedy owners is going back and forth with a former MLB Players Association head (NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr), whose resume includes six—count ‘em six—work stoppages—over revenue sharing.
Try to wrap your head around that for a minute.
The league wants to abuse its followers, and we just have to take it. Nonetheless, fans of the black and gold are being robbed of much more than simply watching and supporting their local professional hockey team.
The greatest player in the world comes back to his team that already includes the reigning NHL Most Valuable Player in Evgeni Malkin. With three Stanley Cups already under their belt, the organization and the city thirsts for more.
This team undoubtedly boasts more talent than any other in the league, when healthy. Penguins General Manager Ray Shero has built this organization into a perennial contender. With a franchise goalie, a dynamic offense and an improved defensive corps (see Despres, Simon) already in place, there isn’t much missing from this force in the East-besides an actual season.
In his seven seasons in the league, Sidney Crosby has only played 75-plus games four times. In total, he has missed 140 regular season games—an average of twenty per season.
His last healthy season, in which he only missed one game, was the ’09-’10 campaign, a whopping three calendar years ago.
As Crosby battled through ankle, knee and brain injuries, the hockey community was eerily reminded of another all-time great, who not only missed large chunks of his career due to serious illness and injury, but also played in Pittsburgh.
Mario Lemieux was forced to miss large chunks of his illustrious career due to bouts with Hodgkin’s Disease and chronic back issues. Despite his mastery on the ice and dominance in the record books, it’s hard not to imagine what else Lemieux could have done with a body that didn’t betray him and eventually send him into an early retirement.
It’s a comparison that Pittsburgh has dreaded since the severity of Crosby’s injury was first discovered.
For Crosby, we are all grateful he isn’t missing games due to his health, but that might make this labor situation even more damning. We prepared ourselves to watch The Kid stake his claim back atop the hockey universe via Stanley Cups and MVP’s, only to have it delayed yet again.
Back at full strength, Crosby wants to play. As collective bargaining offers continue to get rejected by both sides of the table, playing in Europe as a stop-gap becomes more viable of an option for the hungry superstar.
Here’s hoping David Steckel comes nowhere near the KHL.
Guest post by BJ Zagorac
Image Thebeev @ flickr