Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has returned to the ice for the first time since suffering a concussion two months ago, skating 15 minutes Monday morning in full equipment at the team's arena.
The non-contact outing at Consol Energy Center was the first time Crosby has been seen skating publicly since Jan. 5. He has been out of the lineup for 29 games, after getting hit in the head in successive matches.
Crosby wants end to deliberate head shots
In a transcript provided by the Penguins, Crosby said this when asked if the league should ban head shots:
"I’d like to say yes, but it’s more than just saying that. There’s got to be obviously some clarity and everything’s got to be looked at as far as how you do that. It’s a pretty fast game and there may be times when guys don’t target the head and they may come in contact with the head, so what do you do in that situation? So banning them would be the easiest, I guess, and the safest route.
"But at the same time, there are times when there is going to be accidental contact and how do you deal with that? That’s something that they have to work out. But as far as targeting the head, yeah. No matter if it’s from the blindside or straight on, if someone targets the head, then yeah, I think that should be banned.
"But when you’re looking at accidental contact and stuff, well, that’s going to be up to people making those disciplinary decisions whether or not it was targeted and things like that. But that’s kind of what needs to be talked about. But as far as deliberate head shots, yeah. You’re not going to lose anything from the game if you take that away. I don’t think you’re going to lose anything at all. I mean, if a guy has enough time to line someone up, then he’s got enough time to decide whether he can hit him in the head or not. I think that’s pretty realistic.
"But it’s whether or not it’s intentional, sometimes that’s tough to really know when you’re talking about a fast game like hockey. So that’s something they have to discuss. The easy answer is yes, but it’s just finding out how to do it the right way so that you still have that physical element but at the same time, guys are a little bit safer too."
"I felt pretty good doing some light workouts. I was told I had the opportunity to skate [so] I went out there for 15 minutes to see how I felt," he told the Penguins' website. "No real plan going forward. I felt good, so that’s a good sign."
While Crosby was cautiously optimistic, he stressed that the unpredictable nature of concussion recovery could mean there are still setbacks to come.
"I may not feel great this afternoon and not be able to skate tomorrow," Crosby said. "The only reason I was able to skate today is because I’ve had some good days here, done a little bit of exercise and got through that. That doesn’t mean there are any guarantees. It’s just a progression."
"Today is progress, but I’m nowhere close to where I need to be as far as being in shape," he added.
Crosby was hit by Washington forward Dave Steckel and Tampa Bay defenceman Victor Hedman in the early January incidents. Steckel collided with Crosby while the Penguins star was turned, while Hedman drove him into the glass with a hit.
Until then, the 23-year-old native of Cole Harbour, N.S., had been on pace for the best offensive showing of his career, leading the NHL at the time with 32 goals and 34 assists.
Still in top 10 in goals
Despite his absence, Crosby is seventh in the league in goals and 11th in points.
Crosby and the Penguins have insisted that he only began to feel concussion symptoms after the Hedman play. He said he experienced some neck stiffness after the Steckel hit, but didn't find cause for alarm.
Pittsburgh has not provided a timetable for his return.
Crosby has expressed frustration with the recovery process, but said he would stay out as long as medically necessary.
The Penguins have managed to overcome the absences of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and others to sit just three points back of the Eastern Conference lead with 12 games to play.
Crosby's injury has been at the forefront as the NHL has grappled with the issue of head shots in the game, a process that started last year after serious injuries to Marc Savard and David Booth.
The league implemented Rule 48 to deal with blindside hits, but the league's general managers are meeting this week in Florida, where the topic will be revisited.