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Kovacevic: Crosby's silence indefensible

| Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011

The Penguins' 1991 Stanley Cup champions were back together for two glorious days, capped Tuesday by the alumni golf affair at Valley Brook Country Club, and all the laughter and embraces made it easy to grasp "a bond that lasts forever," as checking center Randy Gilhen called it. It's a special group, these men who created that magical May night in Minnesota.

"Hard to believe it's been 20 years," Mario Lemieux said as the boys prepared to tee off. "Time goes by so quick."

Not quickly enough for the current Penguins as it relates to Sidney Crosby.

The waiting goes on and on for firm news about Crosby's concussion status. And I'm not talking about the fans' waiting. I'm talking about the Penguins ' waiting.

I keep hearing from readers accusing the Penguins of being less than forthright about Crosby, or even of outright lying. Sorry, I'm not there. When I asked Lemieux and coach Dan Bylsma and, really, just about everyone at this event what they knew about Crosby, the shrugs were genuine. They don't know. Crosby isn't communicating with them much and, when he does, he apparently isn't sharing much.

Stop and think about this for a moment: The head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins couldn't tell anyone yesterday if his captain, the NHL's preeminent player, was skating or not.

"I really don't know," Bylsma said.

That's astonishing.

Bylsma also couldn't narrow down Crosby's whereabouts, other than to say, "I don't think he's home right now," referring to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The team owner and general manager Ray Shero don't know, either. Lemieux told me he last spoke with Crosby two weeks ago. Crosby isn't even in regular contact with his teammates, from what I'm hearing, certainly a lot less than in summers past. That's why they don't know any more than anyone else.

Am I the only one who finds fault with Crosby and/or his people on this front?

Look, I'm not suggesting that he reports to Pittsburgh and spends his entire summer under team supervision. He's a grown man, an athlete is due his offseason, and the employer has no control over that. Nor am I suggesting Crosby isn't due his privacy, particularly in light of his usual fishbowl existence. Nor am I ignoring that he's had a rough few months. For all we know, it might still be rough for him.

But how about a call to the Penguins rather than vice versa?

How about a text?

Stick taps in Morse code?

The Penguins owe a lot to Crosby, but he surely owes them the courtesy of diligent, detailed updates on his health. To avoid doing so is as indefensible as it is inexplicable.

It's a shame that the Penguins are less than a month from the start of camp, and Shero and Bylsma have so little information on the key component of their roster. It's a shame that the public knows even less, not having heard from him since two days after last season ended.

It's a shame, too, that this wonderful reunion of the franchise's first champions yesterday was overshadowed by Crosby and the latest reports out of Canada — fictitious, flawed or otherwise — about his health. Nearly all of the reporters' questions and most of the comments were Sid this, Sid that.

Not that the champions seemed to mind.

"That's the big topic, no question," Hall of Fame defenseman Larry Murphy said. "When you lose a player at Sid's level, obviously, the Penguins feel it more than anybody, but it impacts the whole sport. I think they're handling it right, though. Just wait until he's ready. No point in taking a risk."

Another Hall of Famer, center Bryan Trottier, agreed: "In our day, we'd get bonked on the head and maybe be back on the ice two or three shifts later. But you don't always bounce back. Sid's a young kid. This is scary. You want him to play for a long time."

Absolutely. I've said all along that nothing out of this scenario matters more than Crosby's health, not so much as a player but as a person. He just turned 24 this month, and he deserves a life free of headaches, nausea and the other awful symptoms that can disrupt concussion victims for years.

But, based on the Penguins' statements that Crosby is working out harder this summer than his usual regimen, he surely is well enough to have a conversation. If not with us, then with the Penguins.

It's well past time he does so.

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