The NHL held its collective breath yesterday when Sidney Crosby gave his first press conference in months outlining the time line for his return to hockey. The prognosis was not good. Although Crosby was optimistic he would play next year he admitted his road to recovery was far from complete. One of the doctors that joined Crosby even went so far as to say he had "no earthly idea" when the Penguins all star would return to the ice. Is the NHL at a crossroads?
Yes and no. Anytime a sport loses its most popular and marketable player its cause for concern. Sidney Crosby is in the prime of his career and his extended absence isn't something that could have been anticipated. There is no contingency plan for losing the face of the NHL, but that doesn't mean all is lost. This year's Stanley Cup final had the highest TV ratings in almost 20 years and the impending NBA lockout will be advantageous for the league. The NHL will get more coverage than usual as network affiliates scramble to fill air time.
The real question is will the league make plans to move forward as if Sid the Kid has played his last game? I'm no neurologist, but if someone is still experiencing symptoms from a hit they took 10 months ago something is seriously wrong. Concussions are no laughing matter and with the increased awareness of their long term effects you should always treat these cases with extreme caution.
My guess is Sidney Crosby won't be back and if so he has nothing to be ashamed of. The 24 year old has a lifetime of accomplishments including gold medals, Stanley Cups, and Hart trophies. If he never scores another goal he's a part of NHL history forever.