Sidney Crosby’s thoughts are with his club’s conscience, not the likely looming suspension for Boston’s Shawn Thornton.
Crosby made that point clear again Thursday after the Penguins practiced at Southpointe Iceoplex – and he looks no less bewildered now by what happened to Brooks Orpik than he did after the mess that was last Saturday night at TD Garden.
Crosby’s facial expression then was one I had not witnessed from him after a game, and I have covered, probably, 90 percent of those he has played in the NHL.
His expression could have been mistaken for anger, perhaps over what happened to Orpik and how the Penguins’ blew a late lead to an opponent he and teammates have grown to increasingly dislike.
That was not anger, though.
That was concern, and it was genuine.
Orpik and Crosby do not always see eye to eye, but in a way that an older and younger brother do not see a shared world similarly.
That does not mean there exists a lack of respect, and certainly not a lack of affection. Orpik and Crosby have abundances of both for one another, and I base that on my conversations over the last eight years with each about the other.
This week, at least in off-guard moments inside the Penguins’ dressing room, Crosby has occasionally appeared as disconcerted as a person would when he or she is worried about the condition of somebody close.
It is hard for me – somebody who covered Crosby intensely during his concussion saga of 15 months from January 2011-March 2012 – not to presume that he automatically thinks back on his own struggles when somebody he knows well, as he does Orpik, is diagnosed with a brain injury.
It is hard for me – as somebody who pushed hard on Crosby and his representatives with and outside of the Penguins from January 2011-March 2012 – not to think back on my own struggles with the injury as a teenager and with writing about it while it prevented probably the best athlete I will cover from doing what he does best.
I have covered one too many concussions, but enough to believe that this is THE ISSUE of our sporting time – and probably the one that will change this, and other games, forever, sooner rather than later.
To cover a concussed athlete is miserable.
Information relayed to reporters is often inaccurate or incomplete, and often that is because the injury is outside the realm of rational understanding. A player can look normal, and very much be a physical and emotional wreck.
Frustration builds for everybody involved, and there is no easy or quick fix.
There is a nasty side to high-profile concussions that very few people experience, and I sometimes wish I had not experienced Crosby’s dealings. It involves behind-the-scenes posturing, bickering and finger pointing. It leads to confusion, agitation, stress and stupid things done by smarter-than-that people – and it can become very, very personal.
It is Hell for the injured, and Purgatory for all those that are connected to that player.
It is a brain injury.
Think about that.
The brain… injured.
There have been many, many times over the past few years that I wish I had said those last three sentences to myself more often – and then thought about what they might mean for Crosby – from January 2011-March 2012.
I learned a lot about myself after looking back on how I covered the Crosby concussion. There are some parts of my approach to that story that I regret, a couple for which I sometimes feel the need to apologize to Crosby, his family and close friends.
A reporter can get too attached to a story, can work it so deep that there is only blinding darkness.
There are stories that no sports reporter signed up for when looking for this particular livelihood. Concussion coverage comes to my mind.
It is a brain… injured.
That is what I am thinking about as the NHL prepares to hear Thornton’s side of the story on Friday.
>> Speaking of sagas, columnist Dejan Kovacevic chimes in on Jaromir Jagr’s possible last Pittsburgh date as an NHL player in Friday’s Trib. It will be worth your read: http://triblive.com/sports/dejankovacevic/dejancolumns/5226035-74/jagr-game-lemieux#axzz2nIuCOF12
I never really covered Jagr, save for running quotes for current Trib Steelers beat man Alan Robinson in the late 1990s when he covered the Penguins for the Associated Press.
The one time I did cover Jagr intensely was during the JagrWatch (credit: Josh Yohe) during the wild couple of weeks that closed July 2011. It was time of turtles on New York airport runways, hearts being in Pittsburgh, bloggers pranking agents and not much sleep on this end.
It also was a time when Jagr, who spoke openly of wanting to play again for his original NHL team, did exactly the opposite of what Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have done twice – take below market value to be with the Penguins.
There is a lot to think about if you are a Pittsburgher when it comes to Jagr, but maybe that is worth a few seconds as Friday night approaches.
>> NOTES from Thursday’s practice, leading off with the Penguins’ success attracting female fans: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5226057-74/penguins-female-jerseys#axzz2nIuCOF12
>> The Penguins are on another 100-point pace, and there is are some special reasons why: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5226048-74/games-penguins-power#axzz2nIuCOF12
Be EXCELLENT to each other,