It was by most accounts a typical mundane Monday morning in Pittsburgh. You had your same usual fight with traffic to get into town. Got your regular morning coffee and dragged yourself off to class, or were subjected to a morning of the idiot down the hall yappng about his great weekend. Whatever.
A little after 10:00 AM, sitting at your desk working on some lame spreadsheet or in the middle of a lecture in class, you were jolted wide awake.
If you were tuned in to Steve Mears on Pens HD radio, you wanted to make sure you heard what you thought you just heard. If you were on Twitter, you rubbed your eyes and maybe did a quadruple-take.
“Sidney Crosby is back on the ice.”
Did he say that correctly? Is this some kind of joke?
Sidney Crosby. Back on the ice. Skating. Full gear.
It probably took a second or five for that to completely register, especially when the official tweet came down from the Pens. Two minutes later, your text alert from the Pens arrived, and then your phone or twitter feed blew up.
Safe to say that it’s been a little more than ten years since an official return to a practice sheet of ice by one of the Penguins generated the kind of response from the fan base that Sidney Crosby’s 15-minute skate did on Monday.
And no one can really blame us.
This season has been fluctuated from the sublime to the ridiculous. There were Staal’s setbacks from surgery and the broken hand he suffered when he returned to practice. Through the first month and a half of the season, Fleury and the defense was a Benny Hill clip:
Then almost overnight, Fleury got it together, the defense meshed and Crosby treated the scoring race like Secretariat treated the rest of the field in the Belmont. Maybe it was the Cobra Scorpion Whiskey; maybe not. We don’t know these things. But the Pens strung together an amazing final seven weeks of 2010. 24/7 was here. Staal came back. All the team really needed to do was get Malkin going.
The Pens followed up what was mostly an asstastic Winter Classic game with an 8-1 evisceration of Tampa on Jan. 5, giving the Pens 55 points exactly at the midpoint of the season. Maybe this was a precursor to what we could expect the rest of the way. Awesome. Shero’s grand vision for this team was finally coming together, and look what the Pens just did to a clear playoff contender.
Not so fast, my friend!
“Hedman” is apparently Swedish for “Killer of Dreams”
Yeah, there was that. Disco drops the word “concussion”. No definite timetable was put on Sid’s return.
Two weeks after Sid’s concussion, Malkin was shelved to rehab an injured knee. First game back from the All-Star break, Letestu shreds his knee. Out 4-6 weeks. But hey, good news. Two games later, Malkin returned to the lineup and…
Bad joke, man.
Throw in a broken finger that’s taken Orpik out of the lineup, plus concussions to Arron Asham, Nick Johnson and Eric Tangradi (not even the reinforcements were spared the wrath of the Great Penguins Roster Scourge of 2011), and it was just bad times all around.
Somehow through all of this, the Pens have managed to remain in the top four of the Eastern Conference playoff race, and the Neal & Kovalev deals may have helped a little there. But for the most part, it’s been a pretty hellish last two and a half months as Pens fans.
So give your fellow Pens fans a couple of days to be excited for this news about Crosby.
Look, pretty much every Pens fan knows that Sid’s return to the ice today was just a step in the recovery process. And yes, it doesn’t guarantee he’ll be back at all this year. Just as it was when we woke up this morning, there is still no official timetable. There never really has been, and even the sight of Crosby in full practice gear taking shots doesn’t change that.
We get that.
But we always held out for that chance that Sid would be back this year. All the team needed to do was get into the playoffs. Shero knew what he had here – a roster full of players willing to work hard, play fast and physical, a defense and a goaltender as strong as anyone else in the Eastern Conference and a smart coach who knew how to adapt. Shero remade the roster with the Neal and Kovalev trades – adding at least some honest scoring punch to a roster that would eventually get SOME decent talent back, even though Malkin was done and Crosby was a longshot.
But there was always the hope that Crosby would be able to make a full recovery from the concussion this year and come back at some point – whether it was mid-March, mid-April or sometime in the playoffs.
Cue yesterday’s 15-minute skate by Crosby.
Let’s just wait and see.
ONE MORE THOUGHT, DUDES
The Crosby return really boils down to this, as stated by @KevinInABQ on Twitter yesterday. This is the first “tangible milepost involving (Crosby), rather than a ‘sources close to those familiar with the situation say’ milepost." That’s the truth.
It’s been Rumor City for Pens fans since Disco first declared that Crosby had a concussion and it became apparent he was going to miss some significant time. “Anonymous Sources” became the most quoted person by the Canadian media, who seemed willing to dig under every rock in from Cole Harbour to Vancouver looking for anything on Crosby. There were rumors of spinal contusions, brain tumors, skull fractures. There were reports just this past weekend started by some jabroni in Toronto that Sid’s family was urging him to retire early.
Locally, it wasn’t any better. Callers to sports shows became self-endorsed experts on concussions because they had one playing football in high school for Brashear back in the 1970s, or that they once took a high elbow in a dek hockey game. And all of a sudden, everyone in Pittsburgh seemed to know one of the doctors treating Sid, or they had a buddy who worked at the hospital with one of those doctors.
Never knew so many people in Pittsburgh were so connected to a handful of neurologists.
If absolutely nothing else, I think it’s pretty safe to say we now know it’s not a tumor.
Let’s go to Mr. Mora with the honest truth.
Enough. No more rumors.