Sidney Crosby is the Biggest Man in the Room

The world's best player has changed hockey forever simply by doing nothing at all.

You spend most of the day just trying not to pee your pants. This is the global experience for anyone who loves hockey, whether you are an NHL player or a lawyer or some guy in a Kevin Stevens jersey and a nacho helmet.

This is the waiting game. The terrible wind-up. The waning hours that crawl by as the sun goes down and your heart rate soars and you think about the sound a puck makes when it falls from the hand of a referee and whip-crack snaps on fresh ice.

For the past 318 days, for the past 7,600 hours, the world’s best hockey player has been stuck with this rut in the pit of his stomach. It must have felt like the world’s longest case of sleep paralysis. Crosby could open his eyes, he could even lace up skates and dangle pucks on a string. But once 7:30 rolled around and the quiet tension leaked into the locker room like a wave of humidity before a thunderstorm, Crosby could not move. He was stuck in cement.

No one on earth loves hockey more than Sidney Crosby. This is a man who celebrates winning a Stanley Cup by putting up the trophy as collateral in a street hockey game. For the past 10 months, he did something that will be subconsciously remembered by youth hockey players around the country long after his number 87 is in the rafters.

He did nothing at all.

The game’s best player made a choice to step away while he was, quite literally, at the height of his powers. He sat in the press box while his team was a Cup-contender. He answered the same question 700 times. He smiled as ridiculous rumors of a brain tumor, then a fractured skull, then a conspiracy to spite the league circulated the lower reaches of the interwebs. 

His physician through this terrible ordeal, Dr. Micky Collins, told me in July that the most concerning issue regarding concussions today is not the injury itself, but education. Collins' biggest challenge is getting players in the door of his office in the first place. Too many rush back from a concussion too soon, or simply ignore their symptoms.

We now know the consequences. Memory loss, skull-rattling headaches, the world tilts off its axis with dizziness and neurological scores drop from the 90th-percentile to the 30th. Professional hockey players stop scoring, or hitting, and they get attention right away. Our kids, though, no one notices until they fail their third-straight Algebra test.

As we so unfortunately learned in the wreckage of the Penn State tragedy, there is so much more to masculinity, to strength, than being the baddest man in the Colosseum. Most often, a person’s courage is truly put to the test when no one is watching. Say, when they witness something unspeakable in a locker room.

Hockey is a frozen island. Its inhabitants retain old-world values. It’s charming in the way that Archie Bunker at the piano is charming. It is a place for big beards and completely legal, completely sober fist-fights, and four-letter words that sound like poetry, and most of all, it is home to the kind of masculinity that we tell ourselves doesn’t exist anymore.

But we’re all looking in the wrong direction. We witnessed true grit, and it wasn’t Chris Pronger returning to the ice three weeks after a puck imploded his eye socket. That’s toughness, sure. But what Crosby did by sitting out for 10 months, letting the storm clouds of criticism gather over him, letting the shadow of the restless media scrum grow ever-larger, absorbing the chorus of hockey’s most damnable slur, pussy, is a rare sort of courage that will change an entire generation of hockey players.

How many youth hockey players’ careers did Crosby save by handling this mysterious, invisible injury with uncommon patience and intelligence?

Whatever happens during the rest of Crosby career, even if he forgets how to shoot and never lifts us out of our seats with another unconscionable goal, he has advanced concussion-awareness and management by a decade. Like Mario Lemieux, Crosby will be remembered just as much for his character off the ice as his mastery on it. 

From Crosby, to his coach Dan Bylsma, to the entire Penguins’ organization, everyone involved in handling the brain of Sidney Crosby showed the kind of courage and masculinity that we don’t often talk about anymore.

Tonight, after 7,600 hours of waiting, it’s finally a hockey night in Pittsburgh for Sid the Kid. Let’s celebrate by striking that nickname once and for all. Sidney Crosby is a man apart.
 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Chuck Noll: A Man for All Seasons

Chuck Noll: A Man for All Seasons

Two years after Chuck Noll’s death, University of Pittsburgh Press prepares to publish the first definitive biography of the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers coach. Pittsburgh Magazine is proud to share an interview with author Michael MacCambridge and an exclusive excerpt of “Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work,” scheduled for release in October.
The Changing Face of Campus in Pittsburgh

The Changing Face of Campus in Pittsburgh

Renovation is under way at nearly all of our area colleges and universities. For students heading back to school this fall — and their parents — we offer this crash course on the highlights of these projects and their projected benefits.
Fall Fashion: In the Black

Fall Fashion: In the Black

The little black dress, and shirt, and pants, never go out of style. Add mystery to your wardrobe with these easy-to-accent autumn staples.
Apteka: A Taste of Home

Apteka: A Taste of Home

Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski bring top-notch vegan, eastern European cuisine to Bloomfield.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Old Farmer’s Almanac: Winter in Pittsburgh Will Be Warmer, But…

Old Farmer’s Almanac: Winter in Pittsburgh Will Be Warmer, But…

In its 225th year, the reference book on weather suggests we tune up our snow-removal equipment.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
See How Pittsburgh Chefs Are Giving Back

See How Pittsburgh Chefs Are Giving Back

Some of the city's top chefs and bartenders are organizing events to raise awareness about food waste and hate crimes in our community.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 5 Best Comic Shops in Pittsburgh

The 5 Best Comic Shops in Pittsburgh

These comic book shops offer more than just your casual Batman or Spider-Man choices.

Comments


New Industry Public House Location Up to Par

New Industry Public House Location Up to Par

If you’re in need of a dining option that’s not a national chain while visiting the Robinson area, this is one to keep in mind.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Le'Veon Bell Talks The Talk But Can’t Walk The Walk

Le'Veon Bell Talks The Talk But Can’t Walk The Walk

The Steelers running back emphasized his latest suspension resulted from missed random drug tests, and not a relapse into the marijuana-induced haze that got him jammed up last season. But if you lack the maturity to grasp the consequences of your actions (or, in this case, inactions), does it really matter?

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Custom Made: The Surmesur Suit

Custom Made: The Surmesur Suit

Straight out of Canada, the custom menswear store opens its first U.S. location in Pittsburgh.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Hipsters in Iraq, Cops and Robbers in the Old West

Hipsters in Iraq, Cops and Robbers in the Old West

Reviews of "War Dogs" and "Hell or High Water," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
The Lucky Ones: Katie Doré and John Potter

The Lucky Ones: Katie Doré and John Potter

Want even more Real Pittsburgh Weddings? We'll be bringing them to you throughout the fall, beginning with this lovely and lucky couple.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Put a Lid On It! The Container Store Coming to Pittsburgh

Put a Lid On It! The Container Store Coming to Pittsburgh

The store famous for carrying storage and organizational products is set to open at the revamped Block Northway in Ross Township.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Two Events Planned for Prospective Waynesburg Students

Two Events Planned for Prospective Waynesburg Students

A fall visitation day and a Saturday information session aim to allow interested students a look into life at the university.

Comments

Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags