Kovacevic: Crosby healthy, happy, hungry
TribLIVE Sports Videos
The world's greatest hockey player was standing at center ice with a puck on his head.
In the Bizarro world of local sports of late, with the Pirates collapsing like stoned hippies and the Steelers defending Dick LeBeau better than they defended Carson Palmer, this felt just about right.
There was Sidney Crosby, along with 11 other Penguins and a few extras engaging in one of their impromptu scrimmages Tuesday morning at Southpointe. Other than the team-licensed gear, it bore no resemblance to the training camp that should have been taking place. There were no coaches, referees, linesmen or anyone else at ice level. Seven bundled-up fans watched from the bleachers.
The captain, improving as cleverly as ever, had that puck balanced on his helmet as he lined up for a faceoff against, uh, Deryk Engelland. They squared up, Crosby's head tilted forward, gravity played the role of linesman, and off he went.
Before long, he burst down the left wing, curled in on the poor rent-a-goalie and sweetly tucked a shot inside the far post.
That an upbeat enough image to take your mind off “Hoka Hey!” or all three of Lawrence Timmons' tackles?
“It's nice to get on the ice,” the captain told me right after stepping off. “It's been a lot of fun. I've been feeling good all summer … but now you kind of crave something else.”
Oh, yeah. That.
I could invest this page in a John Tortorella-sized rant on the NHL's stupidity in shutting down a sport that a) can ill afford it during a growth period and b) has openly boasted of record revenues since the last lockout, way back in 2004 and c) is letting the usual clique of cheapskate owners pull Gary Bettman's strings.
But I won't. I'd rather talk actual hockey, as I'm sure is true of all who love the game.
Let's talk about how good it is to see Crosby happy again.
Not happy. Beaming.
I'm not sure any of us will ever fully process what he went through these past couple years. It wasn't just about the concussion and the neck. It was about the doubts, about picturing life without what he loves most.
“Symptom-free. No problems.”
Another huge grin.
Not easy to stay down after that, is it?
But wait until you see him, however long that takes. He has a stronger build than he's ever shown, and he's positively flying about the rink. Looks like he's right where you'd want him to be at 25, ready for the prime of an already brilliant career.
In other offseasons, he's focused on a specific area to master, such as faceoffs.
“Missing as much time as I did, I just want to get back to the speed and skill of the game. Obviously, that takes games to get back, but I've done a lot more game-type scenarios, quickness work, things to make the transition a little easier.”
That's a very Sid way of saying he's in exemplary shape.
Questions do remain, but that only offers an excuse for more actual hockey talk.
Here's a topic: Who will be Crosby's linemates?
Pascal Dupuis will be one, but the Penguins' vain pursuit of Zach Parise left the same vacancy on the other wing.
“I think we have a lot of good wingers here,” Crosby said. “I'm comfortable with all our guys.”
I'm guessing it will be Chris Kunitz. Dan Bylsma can mix and match next to Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, who play mostly off each other, anyway.
And what of Crosby's usage on the power play, which was so confounding in the playoffs that Bylsma took the wacky step of taking him off the top unit?
A fixed role is way overdue.
“You try to find different places to work to everyone's strengths,” Crosby said. “I feel really confident out there wherever it is, but I'd say my comfort zone's always been on the half-wall. The point is new to me, so goal line or half-wall, I'd prefer.”
Half-wall it should be, then.
Like I said, fun to talk a little pucks, isn't it?
If only the NHL would collect its senses, we'd do it all the time.
Of course, some do, anyway. That's the nature of the hockey fan. Even if they watched football the night before, they'll claim to their buddies they were dissecting some Predators-Ducks rerun on NHL Network.
I asked Crosby if the sport — owners or players — should ever take advantage of that.
“I hope not. I hope that nobody who's making any decision or taking any stance will take our fans for granted. But there is a business side, and we all know that. We just want something that's fair, and hopefully people can understand that.”
He shook his head. It's pretty clear he's still one of those grasping to understand.
“I can't really compare it to anything. Not at all. You know, I'd rather just be playing.”
And when might that happen?
I mentioned I've heard for a while it won't go past October.
“I have no clue. I couldn't give you a date. I don't see it going that long, but there hasn't been a lot of progress the past couple weeks. We've kind of been at a standstill. Hopefully, it's one or two meetings away, and everything starts rolling.”
And someone's hand — rather than his head — can drop the puck.
Dejan Kovacevic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Steelers still knockin’ on Canton’s door
- McKeesport charter sees no problems for opening
- Review: Pittsburgh son Billy Porter shines bright in ‘Kinky Boots’
- Pitcher Arrieta, Cubs shut down Pirates in victory at PNC Park
- Mon Valley takes time out for night out to build community
- Heyward-Bey looks to make impact on special teams with Steelers
- Rostraver native revisits roots on cross-country bike journey
- Philanthropist and one-time GOP powerhouse Elsie Hillman dies at 89
- Fire displaces Kittanning family of 6
- Steelers notebook: Spaeth on baby watch
- Catching on: Jeannette grad Pryor making progress with transition to receiver