TORONTO - Steven Stamkos says the NHL needs Sidney Crosby.
The Pittsburgh Penguins superstar has been out of action since January with post-concussion syndrome and it was rumoured this week he suffered a setback in his recovery.
Stamkos said it's difficult to see Crosby on the sidelines, both for the health of the league and as a fellow player.
"It'd be tough, we need him. He's the face of the NHL," the Tampa Bay Lightning sniper said Tuesday at an NHL fitness camp in Toronto. "It obviously would take away from our game not having him in the lineup, so hopefully everything goes well."
Crosby's agent tried to quell rumours Monday that the centre had cancelled some on-ice workouts and that he wouldn't he ready for training camp next month.
Pat Brisson said in a release the 24-year-old had adjusted his workout schedule and would address his condition at an "appropriate time."
Crosby hasn't appeared in a game since Jan. 5 when he took a blow to the head for a second straight game and was diagnosed with a concussion.
Stamkos, who recently signed a big extension with Tampa Bay, added the amount of concussions in the league is alarming.
"It's scary with the amount of concussions, not only with him, over the past couple years," Stamkos said. "As a fellow player in the league, you want to prevent that sort of thing."
Anaheim Ducks centre Andrew Cogliano echoed Stamkos' feelings about Crosby's health and his importance to the NHL.
"Sidney's a great player, he's a great ambassador for the game," he said. "Hopefully, he's back 100 per cent at the beginning of the season."
There have been calls in some circles that Crosby should consider retiring, but Stamkos said it's too early for that.
"Who knows how he's feeling? He's got to be the judge of that. You just hope that guys are smart when it comes to their health because that's definitely more important than the game," Stamkos said. "Everyone's competitive — you want to be able to get back out there and play the game that you love. Hopefully he's OK and good to go for the season."
Last week, Penguins general manager Ray Shero said Crosby "has progressed really well this summer," adding the star centre was due to return to Pittsburgh for evaluation before the team opens training camp Sept. 17.
However, Shero stopped short of predicting whether Crosby would be in the lineup when the Penguins open the regular season in Vancouver against the Canucks on Oct. 6.
On Monday night, CTV News reported Crosby had suffered a setback that forced him to cancel all of his scheduled on-ice workouts at a Halifax arena.
Citing several unnamed sources, the network also said it appears unlikely that Crosby will attend the start of training camp — a claim Brisson took issue with.
"Training camp is in three weeks from now," he said. "It is too premature to speculate all kinds of deliberate information at this point. ...
"As far as I know training camp hasn't started yet."