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Shero happy Crosby back on the ice

by Shawn P. Roarke
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The news that Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero has longed to hear for more than two months came when Shero was almost 1,000 miles from home.

The message was still delivered loud and clear.

Shero was mid-meeting as word trickled down that Sidney Crosby, the Penguins captain and star player, was on the ice for the first time since Jan. 5 when he was sidelined with a concussion.

"I knew he was feeling better just from seeing him the past couple of weeks, the look in his eyes and him being back on the bike," Shero said when Monday's meetings adjourned. "That, to me, is the most important thing. I knew he was shooting and stuff like that in the room we have in the back, but for him to get back on the ice is a good step.

"We'll just go day-to-day. As I said before to (coach) Dan Bylsma, we'll just see how it goes. Getting back on the ice is just that first step."

Crosby skated for about 15 minutes Monday morning before his team practiced at Consol Energy Center. He did some light skating, some stickhandling and took a few shots in his first on-ice appearance since his last game, against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 5.

"I was given the opportunity to skate, and the doctors said I could give it a try and see how I feel," Crosby said in Pittsburgh. "So I did that today, and we'll see moving forward how it goes."

While the news of Crosby being back on the ice was certainly well-received by Shero, he refused to get ahead of himself, cautioning it is still a long road back for Crosby.

"There's no timetable at all," Shero said. "He got back on the ice on his own, which is a good step. We'll see how he does, how he progresses. The most important thing is that he gets his life back in order and feels good about himself, which he does recently -- so that's the good news."

Shero likely knows more about concussions than he cares to. Not only has he shepherded Crosby through his two-month journey to this point, but he has also had to deal with a concussion suffered by his high-school-age son, Christopher.

Shero greeted with open arms the League's plan to adopt a more stringent concussion protocol, announced Monday afternoon by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Unlike the present scenario in which a player exhibiting concussion-related symptoms can be evaluated on the bench, the new standard will require a player to return to the dressing room and be evaluated by the team physician before any go-ahead to return to the ice.

"My son (Christopher) had a concussion about a month ago, and I let him play seven more games and practice five more times," Shero said Monday. "We didn't know."

Shero also said he had no idea about Crosby before the official diagnosis. He remembers talking to the center just a few hours before the Jan. 5 game against Tampa bay and not noticing any clues that would suggest he was still affected by a an accidental head hit from Washington's David Steckel on New Year's Day.

"He was cleared to play and he got back in," Shero said. "I saw him the day of the Tampa game at 4:30 p.m., and it never occurred to me that he'd have a concussion. As I said with my son -- it was my son, I live with him, and I'd have never known. These are delicate injuries, and you can talk to doctors; but when you talk about concussions it's getting more and more knowledge of this stuff and protecting players."

Shero understands the protection of players will occupy the vast majority of his time at these meetings, but he is happy to put in the effort.

"Part of our job is to look more to see if we can help with player's safety," Shero said. "That's the most important thing we're looking at right now, but also maintaining the integrity of the game. There's a balancing act there. But, from my own personal standpoint, I don't like seeing head hits; I don't like seeing hits to the head. But we'll have more conversations in these breakout groups and see what happens."

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