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

Pittsburgh's Top 10 Things to Do in March

Pittsburgh's Top 10 Things to Do in March

Your 10 best bets for this month.
Jamie Dixon: Winning His Way

Jamie Dixon: Winning His Way

Peers, players, and regular observers know him to be one of the best coaches — and people — in college basketball.
15 Buzzworthy Pittsburgh Salons

15 Buzzworthy Pittsburgh Salons

From east to west — and north and south — these are the region’s salons and services that make our cut. Having a good hair day doesn’t have to be so difficult after all.
Home of the Year: 2015

Home of the Year: 2015

This year’s selections include a Richland Township house built to appreciate its 160-acre lot and Shadyside garage that was renovated into a stunning, modern dream home.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Everything That's Awesome About Pittsburgh Today
Why Browns Could Take a Few Social Media Tips from Penguins

Why Browns Could Take a Few Social Media Tips from Penguins

It seems the 'Burgh's boys of winter are popping up everywhere on the internet.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
Deer Debate: It's All about Priorities

Deer Debate: It's All about Priorities

PittGirl can't be convinced there is any solid math that proves an animal’s life is more important than a human one.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Time to Sign Up for Farm-Fresh Pittsburgh Produce

Time to Sign Up for Farm-Fresh Pittsburgh Produce

You can guarantee the choicest picks of the harvest with a little late-winter advance planning.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
5 Best Retro Shops in Pittsburgh

5 Best Retro Shops in Pittsburgh

For anyone looking for a perfect #throwback picture to post, head here first.

Comments


Lawrenceville's Home for Cigar Education

Lawrenceville's Home for Cigar Education

Cigar novice? Visit Sammy Sing at The Cigar Den for a crash course and a relaxing time.

Comments


A Taste of Things to Come: Potential Offerings at Kevin Sousa's New Restaurant

A Taste of Things to Come: Potential Offerings at Kevin Sousa's New Restaurant

While the chef readies his Braddock restaurant, he's hosting a series of dinners at home to try out dishes.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Split Decision

Split Decision

Two pieces of reclaimed barn oak make one fine piece to add to your living space.

Comments


This week's buzz from the PM editors
Malpaso Dance Co. Heats Up the Kelly-Strayhorn

Malpaso Dance Co. Heats Up the Kelly-Strayhorn

The Cuban dance company performs this weekend at the East Liberty venue.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Dogs of Honor

Dogs of Honor

Warning: Cuteness overload to come. Here are some pictures of couples’ furry friends who joined their masters’ wedding-day festivities that are sure to warm up your heart in this cold weather.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Now Accepting 2016 Home of the Year Submissions

Now Accepting 2016 Home of the Year Submissions

Our first standalone HOME issue in years features the 2015 winners of the annual Home of the Year competition — and we're already thinking about next year's contest.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Going Green: Students at Cal U Competition Will Recycle Robots

Going Green: Students at Cal U Competition Will Recycle Robots

The university's event, to be held March 5-7, will bring together teams of 'bot-building students.

Comments


Thinking outside the box (score)
For the Pirates, Playoff Expectations are the New Normal

For the Pirates, Playoff Expectations are the New Normal

But is that a good thing?

Comments


Award-winning sports commentary by Sean Conboy
R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

R.I.P. Corporate Penguins, 2009-2014

Fire Bylsma? Fire Shero? The Penguins' problems run deeper.

Comments

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags