COLUMBUS, Ohio – Sidney Crosby’s absence from the 2015 NHL All-Star Game is no doubt a disappointment to many fans. That includes one he’s currently chasing in the scoring race.
“I actually, to this day, still have never met Crosby,” said Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars. “Never really had a conversation with him. I was looking forward to that, but obviously that's not going to happen.”
Crosby pulled out of the All-Star Game on Thursday evening due to a lower-body injury, after his Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Evgeni Malkin did the same earlier in the day. That left goalie Marc-Andre Fleury as the team’s lone rep in Columbus.
“I know they talked about they wanted to be here. Obviously they're taking that time to heal up. A little disappointed to not have my teammates with me, but I'm trying to make the best out of it,” Fleury said.
Hey, we all are, MAF. Even if it royally sucks that your teammate skipped the All-Star Game because of a minor injury.
The Penguins announced Crosby has a lower body injury and would miss a week, including a game against Winnipeg both he and Malkin were mandated to miss for pulling out of the All-Star Game so late in the process.
Perhaps to confront the criticism over his absence, the Penguins clarified that Crosby had been struggling with the injury since a Jan. 10 game against the Montreal Canadiens, and took an injection to deal with it recently.
“Crosby had attempted to play through the injury the past two weeks. He is expected to resume skating on Tuesday and could return to the lineup either Wednesday at Washington or Friday at New Jersey,” said the team.
Which is to say that he opted not to play through that injury at the All-Star Game in Columbus. Or appear in Columbus to be part of the festivities even though he’s injured, as he did in 2009 when the game was held in Montreal, because Canada is not Ohio, at last check.
"For the All-Star Game, it's important to get everyone on board, especially the players," Crosby said in January 2009. "I was planning on being here anyway, [so] it wasn't a huge issue."
It’s kind of a huge issue when the best hockey player on the planet and the face of your league – he literally looms large on the side of Nationwide Arena – has missed five straight All-Star Games and has only played in one during his 10-year NHL career.
Some of this was out of Crosby’s hands. His high ankle sprain in 2008, keeping him out of the Atlanta All-Star Game, sidelined him for 6-8 weeks. In 2009, it was a left knee bruise, missing a game immediately before the All-Star break. In 2010, there were Olympics. He missed 2011 and 2012 with concussion symptoms, with talk that he was going to “boycott” the 2011 game in Raleigh. (A well-time media leak for effect.) Then another lockout. Then the Sochi Games.
And now he misses the Columbus All-Star Game because of a minor injury. Minor to the point where the team says they expect him back next week, potentially missing two games but nothing more.
Should Crosby be here? Of course. If only to do what he did in Montreal or, depending on the injury, at least take part in some non-strenuous skills competition fun.
To put it in high-school terms: The other absences had doctor’s notes. This one feels like Sid took some vegetable soup, poured it into the toilet and told his parents he had the stomach flu. (I know this works. I tried it, to great effect.)
I can’t recall another All-Star Game absence that had fans turn so negatively on Crosby, or had his peers gritting their teeth over his absence from the game.
Said Alex Ovechkin, who has never missed an All-Star Game, on whether Crosby’s absence is disappointing. “Yeah, of course. For fans it's kind of a disappointing moment. I'm pretty sure lots of great players didn't make. It's kind of sad, but it is what it is.” (Ed. Note: He did miss one in 2012.)
Said Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks, on stars showing up for the game: “I think it is important. As much as some guys need the break, it is important that you be here. This is a big event for the League and you want to have all the superstars here at the same time.”
But Crosby’s going to also get some sympathy. From fans who think the All-Star Game is a three-day joke and only the NHL’s sponsors get the punchline; and from some star players that give everything they have to promote the League and sympathize with a competitor needed a break.
Like when Jonathan Toews, who could play in his fourth outdoor game next season, was asked if he’s ever thought about getting an “injury” and hitting the beach during the All-Star break.
“Aw, c’mon, you expect me to answer that straight up?” he said, smiling. “I’m only kidding. For anyone to have break like that, and we don’t play until next Wednesday, it is a good break for your body.”
It helps Crosby and, in turn, helps the Penguins. But it doesn’t help the fans. It doesn’t help the League. And it doesn't help when players like Nick Foligno and Brian Elliott -- who left a vacation in Turks and Caicos to fill in as an injury replacement in the game -- exhibit the kind of enthusiasm for this even that we all wish the League's biggest star showed an iota of having.
Being the best player on the planet means having the biggest set of responsibilities, from keeping your nose clean off the ice to promoting the game across the globe. There is no question Sidney Crosby does his part; but when you’re the NHL’s biggest name and you have as many appearances in the All-Star Game as Eric Brewer, there’s something wrong.
It’s not like Crosby would be the only guy here wishing he could sit out and heal up for a week. But the point is that they’re here, and he isn’t.
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