This year as the league holds their annual All-Star game in Ottawa, there is a different feel in the air. The best of the best are supposed to be on display this weekend as the NHL attempts to reach as many casual fans as possible. Only, this year, the All-Star game is lacking in the “all star” department. Due to various injuries and/or suspensions to cut down on injuries, many of the superstars that we are accustomed to seeing in the All-Star game are missing, and that is going to hurt the league in the long run.
Most notably missing is Pittsburgh Penguins captain, and arguably the face of the league, Sidney Crosby. In the last year, Crosby has been on the ice in game situations for about a month, after suffering a concussion at last year’s Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals. After missing the remainder of the season and playoffs along with the first month or so this year, the Pens captain returned to the ice, and in Crosby-esque style, proceeded to lead his team to victory, posting two goals and two assists. But, just a few weeks later, he was back in the trainer’s room indicating that he needs to sit out because he “just didn’t feel right.” He has since missed this year’s All-Star game and has seen a spine specialist.
His marketable counterpart, Alexander Ovechkin, has chosen not to participate in this year’s exhibition due to his three-game suspension citing he didn’t want to be a distraction to the festivities. Ovechkin was ordered to sit for three games because of a hit he administered, ironically, to Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek. Last year’s rookie of the year, Jeff Skinner, continues to miss games due to injuries and Chris Pronger is most likely done for the season. It was posed to me on twitter today if I thought Crosby would try to come back or if the concussion “won.” Obviously, The Kid needs to consider his life outside of hockey and how this concussion situation will affect him. However, if Crosby is forced to retire, the NHL will have a far greater issue to deal with other than the expiring CBA. In fact, the collective bargaining agreement will be the least of their worries.
The biggest issue of all, is the league will be forced to deal with the concussion
situation epidemic like symptoms. As it stands, the league feels they are doing the best they can by implementing harsher rules in regards to hits to the head and by having Brenden Shanahan “patrolling” the video archives for any wrong doing. I’m here to tell the NHL right now: three to five game suspensions are not hurting millionaires. It’s a vacation, a chance for their injuries to heal. All the while, folks like Crosby are wondering if they made the right move in regards to their life’s decisions. Perhaps that education system should have been looked at a little more closely. These guys aren’t invincible, even though, it’s easy to see how Sidney Crosby may think that. But instead of the possibility of Ovechkin to Pronger to Crosby for a one-timer, we’re treated to Alexander Edler to Jason Pominville to…Scott Hartnell? Ladies and gentleman, your 2011-2012 “All-Stars-When-Our-Real-Stars-Have-A-Concussion-And-Their-Livelyhood-Is-At-Risk” Stars.