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Sidney Crosby: Retirement never option, wants head check ban

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

Sidney Crosby is a Ferrari.

This information was shared by Mickey Collins, a UPMC neurologist that's worked with Crosby during the Pittsburgh Penguin star's rehab from the concussions that cut short his season in January. While he's sleek, prestigious and a catalyst for envy, in this case the Crosby-as-Ferrari comparison was made for medicinal purposes.

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"Sid's vestibular system is better that anyone else's. That's why he's the best hockey player in the world," said Collins, as Crosby met the media for the first time in months at a Wednesday press conference in Pittsburgh.

"Sid's '100-percent' is different than anyone else's, and that's been a challenge in this case. He's the Ferrari of hockey players. At this point, Sid is not having any classic vestibular symptoms, which is very positive. But it's a challenge, because it's not like your usual case."

Which is to say his perception is better than most players; and that being the elite talent that he is, Crosby's recovery is going to have to be a full recovery before he steps on the ice.

"Ninety-percent really isn't good enough," said Crosby. "I'm not going to roll the dice on that."

Neither are his doctors, especially when they believe Crosby could return to the NHL and not be at risk for re-injury. Collins said he's "supremely confident [Crosby] won't have any long-term effects from injury" should Crosby recover in full before coming back to the Penguins.

Which brings us back to the tricky question of "when?"

Crosby's concussion was the type that affected the space and motion system in his brain. So when he'd skate down the boards, seeing that motion would cause him post-concussion symptoms.

He hasn't fully recovered from his concussion. Not yet. He still experiences headaches. Doctors say he's "not close" to being cleared for contact in practice, which obviously jeopardizes the start of his season. But they also say there's been "significant improvements recently" and that this is a "manageable injury" for Crosby.

There was no timetable established on Wednesday, but Crosby was emphatic that he intends to play this season.

Which is great news for anyone worried he'd be forced to, or choose to, retire.

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The NHL community can sometimes be as chatty and gossipy as a hair salon in the South. That's evidenced by the theories and scuttlebutt whispered around during this summer of tragedy for hockey, as well as for Crosby's concussion.

Each week in August brought new anonymous reports about his comeback. (Doctors did confirm he had a setback, by the way, after reaching 89-percent in his rehab.) Everybody had some friend or hanger-on or random source telling them that Crosby would step away from the game for the sake of himself and his family.

Crosby was asked about retirement. "Retirement? No. I'd always known the consequences of this injury. At the end of the day, I didn't give a whole lot of thought about that," he replied.

Crosby was asked if there was a chance he'd never play again. "Pretty slight one. Wouldn't bet on that," Crosby replied coolly.

So the plan remains for Crosby to return to the NHL when he's 100 percent, and when he does he'll find it's a different league — in theory.

As a reaction to his injury, Rule 48 was expanded to come as close to a total ban on contact with the head as the NHL has seen.

But it doesn't go far enough, said Crosby.

"As a League, as a union, I think we've all educated ourselves a lot in the last six or seven months. I think it can go further. At the end of the day I don't think there's a reason not to take [hits to the head] out.

"I read a stat that there were 50,000 hits a year. We're talking about 50 head shots. To take those out, the game's not going to change. As professionals, the odd time maybe there's accidental contact, but for the most part you can control what's going on out there," he said.

"If a guy's gotta be responsible with his stick, you have to be responsible with the rest of your body. Whether it's accidental or not accidental, you have to be responsible out there."

There's been plenty of speculation about how Crosby's injury would affect him on the ice; like, for example, if a level of timidity would enter his game when going into the corners or in front of the net.

While that remains to be seen, know this: There's no timidity for Sid off the ice. He's long been known — and sometimes ridiculed — as a player who shied away from controversy. No longer.

The issue of player safety as it pertains to head shots is now his movement, and his politics are clear: It doesn't matter if it's a Dave Steckel accident or a Victor Hedman hit from behind, players have to be responsible for their actions and the NHL has to be responsible for policing them.

Thus spake Ferrari.

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