Sidney Crosby and the NHL: Has the Honeymoon Stage Come To an End?

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Sidney Crosby and the NHL: Has the Honeymoon Stage Come To an End?
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

There was a recent report that Sidney Crosby would boycott the NHL All-Star Game at the end of the month to show his displeasure with the NHL on their handling of the two hits that contributed to the concussion that has kept him out of the lineup for over two weeks.

Crosby has vehemently denied the reports that he's angry and will boycott and said he will be there if he's healthy enough. 

I believe him when he says that he won't boycott. Crosby takes his role as ambassador for the game very seriously and wouldn't miss out on an opportunity to help grow the game.

However, I don't believe that he isn't angry with the NHL. He certainly has a right to be.

I don't believe that either hit was intentionally going after Crosby's head. But clearly both hits were hard, dangerous hits—and despite being unintentional, they are the type of hits that the NHL has supposedly been trying to avoid.

The NHL has supposedly been cracking down on headshots by issuing major penalties and game misconducts for any blind-side hit to the head. The rule that went into effect this year states: "a lateral, back-pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact."

Neither hit seemed to target Crosby's head, but primarily due to the size difference between Crosby, David Steckel and Victor Hedman, Crosby's head was the main point of contact. Based on the NHL's wording, there should have been some kind of reaction. But the NHL determined that the hits did not violate the new headshot rule.

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The Penguins expected to have a great season, beginning with the opening of their new arena.

Crosby, among others, disagrees. That's a moot point though at this point in time. The issue now is how the NHL will proceed. Many have argued that since the concussion epidemic has now hit one of the league's biggest superstars, and definitely this season's biggest superstar prior to his injury, the league will take further action to prevent headshots.

“Every hit, every concussion, every suspension contributes to the discussion. When Sidney Crosby gets hit, it gets put in the spotlight, but that’s where it needs to be,” Ray Shero recently said.

Crosby himself needs to step up. He needs to take an authoritative role in the process to better protect players. He needs to use his clout and reputation within the league to affect change. Hockey is a physical sport. Players are going to be taking a lot of hard hits every night. But that's why it's so important for there to be earlier detection of these issues so that guys don't continue to play and take hits that will compound the issue.

There should also be stricter rules regarding protocol following hits like the one Crosby took in the Winter Classic. The Penguins maintain that Crosby didn't have any concussion syndromes following that hit, so they didn't administer a concussion test. Crosby says that he wouldn't have changed anything they did after that hit.

But this was also the first concussion of Crosby's career.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
What's next for Crosby and Bettman?

How sure can he be that he wasn't suffering from any syndromes? I think it should be mandatory for a concussion test to be administered following any hit to the head before a player can be eligible to play in another game.

The results may have still been inconclusive in Crosby's case, but it would reflect a lot better on a team's medical staff to say, "Tests did not show a concussion," than to say, "Well, he didn't have any syndromes, so we didn't follow up."

We can continue to talk about this issue until we're blue in the face, but at the end of the day, we can't do anything about it. That's why someone like Crosby needs to stand up and demand change. It's sad but true to say that sometimes it takes something happening to a superstar for change to occur.

Crosby says that he's always been concerned about player safety, but it reaches a new level after getting firsthand experience. Now that Crosby has that, he needs to pull together other players who have experienced issues with concussions, like Marc Savard, to discuss their experiences and demand the NHL to respond. If Crosby does, he could help protect other players and hopefully prevent some concussions in the future.

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