Monday night, Pittsburgh Penguins fans such as myself held our collective breath, as, for the first time in 320 days, Sidney Crosby, the savior of the Penguins franchise, took the ice.
I cannot provide hard-hitting statistics, citing the improvement in goals per shift, the increase in total team rating or whatever complex number ESPN comes up with next.
The only statistics that matter are two goals and two assists in sixteen minutes.
Crosby was everything fans had expected, dazzling everyone but himself with a move that reminded us all that we are all "Witnesses" to a loyal, level-headed, winning young player who could rewrite the record books.
What we know for certain is that this game only added to the lore of Sid the Kid, and what we love is the fact that this team may be better than the 2009 Stanley Cup champion Pens that had Sid lift the Cup for the first time.
For fans like myself who had looked at their collection of 87 jerseys in the closet with despair as rumors swirled that Crosby's career may be at risk, Monday night was like Christmas morning a month early. Like it or not, Crosby is not just the face of a rebuilt franchise; Crosby is the face of a rebuilt NHL.
Losing a player like Crosby to a concussion as the result of league irresponsibility with handling of head shots would be more than a PR disaster, it would be league-threatening in terms of fan support. Imagine Tom Brady or Albert Pujols being lost due to their respective leagues' mishandling of player safety rules.
Why should fans spend hundreds of dollars on jerseys, tickets and TV subscriptions to watch their athletes play if, in a split second, his career could be ended? Why should parents let the next Crosby play if they see these life-threatening injuries happen on a day-to-day basis?
Crosby's return is not just meaningful to the Penguins faithful; it is meaningful to the NHL. They have their star back, and they have a second chance on the issue of concussions. He returned with the magic we all expected out of the Next One.
So Pens fans can now sit back and watch. Crosby is still not back at 100% in terms of lasting his usual length in a game, but he is still symptom-free. Slap me Silly Sidney, the rest of the season awaits.