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Sidney Crosby Suffers A Concussion, But Was It During The Winter Classic?

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News of Sidney Crosby being diagnosed with a mild concussion has brought a flurry of emotion to the internet.  Through Twitter, Pens fans have seen journalists and others make many declarations about when Crosby got hurt.  Coach Dan Bylsma says the injury occurred in Wednesday's game versus the Tampa Bay Lightning when defenseman Victor Hedman boarded Crosby, whose head bounced off the glass with a force that left him visibly stunned.

Some have theorized that Crosby suffered the concussion when he was hit/collided with David Steckel of the Washington Capitals during the Winter Classic.

Viewers of the HBO series 24/7 got to see the Pens captain in the locker room during the subsequent intermission and Crosby appeared quite dazed, admitting he did not know what happened. His mannerisms and overall look were a bit "off." Despite that, Crosby played his regular shift during the third period of the Winter Classic.

Some have pointed to events at the end of the game as evidence Crosby was not mentally in the game. Specifically, in the game's dying minutes, when Marc-Andre Fleury skated to the bench, Crosby did not immediately jump on the ice, which is unusual since he's known to be a very smart player and usually knows when to get on the ice.

This could be a factor for many reasons. First, the official NHL stat line says that Fleury got to the Pens bench with 1:12 left in the game and Crosby started a shift at 1:12, indicating that, at least officially, Crosby was timely in getting on the ice when Fleury made it over.

Additionally, the Pens were playing in front of 68,000+ people, could noise have been an issue in the coach relaying instructions? Did Crosby, who had just finished a shift one minute earlier, not know he was supposed to go? Evgeni Malkin was also on the bench at the time, and had been waiting longer. Could, in the heat of the moment, a mistake have been made? It seems possible, especially in such a high-pressure environment and with everyone on the bench very focused on watching the play in the Capitals zone to see if their teammates could get things tied up.

To insinuate that Crosby's hesitation in getting on the ice because his brain was scrambled is a pretty big leap. It's definitely an unsubstaniated one.

That also assumes the Pens coaches and medical staff were either too dumb or too reckless to not notice (or not take action) regarding the injury. First Crosby practiced Monday and Tuesday, where he went through normal workouts and reported no problems, and then played Wednesday in Tampa. Further, Crosby even travelled with the team to Montreal on Wednesday night, before heading back to Pittsburgh on Thursday before the Pens met the Canadiens.

Though I'm no doctor, the most likely scenario is the most reasonable one: Crosby suffered some sort of minor damage in the Winter Classic, the symptoms were either very minor or inconsequential by the time the Pens returned to the ice on Monday. But then the Hedman hit officially jarred him to the point that, by Wednesday night or Thursday morning, it was obvious that he was suffering from concussion symptoms, thus the need to shut him down until he regained 100 percent health.

Bylsma indicated last night that Crosby was expected to miss about a week, and the Pens play three games in that span (Saturday versus Minnesota Wild, Monday vs. Boston Bruins and next Wednesday back at Montreal). Overall, thanks to the All-Star break, the Penguins only have eight games between now and the end of January, one of the slowest three-week stretches one could find in the NHL. Certainly there's no good time to lose the league's leading scorer, but if there ever was a good point for Crosby to have to be out of the lineup, now figures to be that time.

Which makes it all the more foolish for observers to speculate that the team or player might try to hide symptoms or would dangerously risk the franchise player to play a relatively unimportant regular season game in January if he had a head injury from the Winter Classic. Crosby has voluntarily skipped games before, and though he is competitive, he's smart enough to know his body's limitations.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.