Sidney Crosby: What His Return Will Mean to the NHL

Adam DavisCorrespondent INovember 21, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 28:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates his second goal of the game in the first period against the Atlanta Thrashers at Consol Energy Center on December 28, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

When Sidney Crosby returns to the NHL tonight after missing almost an entire year of hockey, it will significantly alter the league in many ways. Not only will the Penguins welcome back their beloved captain, but the league as a whole will open its arms to one of the best players in the game.

Many believe that Crosby has the talent to rip apart the scoring race even after missing 20-plus games, but there is more than his talent that he can infuse into the NHL.

Crosby is not only a hero to his native Canada, but he is also one of the best young players in hockey and one of the most talented and refined stars to come along in some time. 

The NHL is in a position to vastly improve its national image now that the NBA has locked out and will likely cancel the season. While I don't believe that basketball fans will suddenly throw on a scarf and head to the hockey rink, I do think that players like Crosby are ambassadors for the game that can raise the NHL's stock in North America. 

By finally playing tonight against the Islanders, Crosby is proving that not only can he return to form and hopefully help the Penguins for the rest of the year, but that he is battling back and won't let this injury derail his career. 

There was rumors and overall worry that this serious concussion and the post-concussion symptoms would cut Crosby's wonderful career short. However, his return tonight proves to the hockey world that he is healthy enough to play. 

To some, his health may not be as important as his big goals or the fans he converts, but this comeback is helping us to know that Crosby is going to stick around for a while; a fact that is crucial to the NHL's overall popularity. 

Too many big-name players have cut their careers short due to injury in this league. Some, like Pat Lafontaine, barely achieved success and others, like Mario Lemieux, could have been even greater had they not been forced to the sidelines.

Crosby is proving to himself, his team, his city and his country that he's not going to give up—that he's going to keep playing and smashing records. 

The NHL would be hard-pressed to find a better poster boy for the league, and Crosby's comeback is a bigger storyline than any that has been published thus far. 

Crosby's comeback means everything to the NHL. It symbolizes how tough hockey players are and it expresses their "never-give-up" attitude. Even more impressive is how the Penguins don't even seem to need Crosby right now, an example of how this comeback was not rushed to aid his club, but rather due to a will to continue playing the sport he loves.

Crosby will hopefully bounce back fully and continue taking the league by storm for many years. He's an excellent face for the NHL and love him or hate him, he is what makes this sport so great. Now, if only the game tonight was against Ovechkin and the Capitals...