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The Long Road Back

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins fans and the hockey world waited over 10 months (320 days exactly) for Sidney Crosby to return to the ice.

All the guessing, rumors and speculation were officially extinguished when the Penguins announced that he will play Monday night against the New York Islanders at CONSOL Energy Center, his first NHL game since suffering a concussion in early January.

Crosby hasn’t played an NHL since Jan. 5, 2011 after he suffered a concussion following a series of collisions with Washington’s David Steckel Jan. 1 and Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman Jan. 5.

Following the Hedman hit, it would be over two months before Crosby set foot on the ice. A month after that he was shutdown for the rest of the season.

In a media conference Sept. 7, concussion specialist Dr. Michael Collins said the Crosby “will make a full recovery” and have “a long, fruitful NHL career.”

Crosby opened the Pens’ 2011-12 training camp Sept. 17 practicing with his teammates, although he wasn’t participating in contact drills or scrimmages – wearing a white “no contact” helmet.

Crosby skated on the ice for Day 1 of training camp at CONSOL Energy Center to a cacophonous standing ovation from the fans that gathered to watch the open practice.

On that first day of training camp, Crosby said that he pushed himself at 100 percent, skating “as hard as I possibly could for as long as I possibly could at that pace.”

Crosby kept pushing himself at that pace for four weeks, taking the occasional day off to rest. He took the next step in his progression Oct. 13 when he was cleared for full contact.

At that point, his return started to inch closer and closer. At the early stage of that period it was difficult for Crosby to get the contact he needed – the Pens were playing so many games in a short period of time that the practices weren’t scripted with much physicality.

Crosby was able to work in some contact in the first two weeks of November with a few stretches of practice days without games.  And with each passing day his return grew more and more imminent.

That imminence has led to today. And finally, the question that has been on everyone’s tongue for 10-plus months – “When is Crosby coming back?” – has been answered.

  • Jan. 1 – Crosby collides with Washington’s David Steckel in the NHL Winter Classic at Heinz Field at the end of the second period. Crosby returns and plays the third period.
  • Jan. 5 – Crosby’s head is hit into the glass on a hit from behind by Victor Hedman of Tampa Bay. Crosby finishes the game.
  • Jan. 6 – Head coach Dan Bylsma announces in Montreal that Crosby left the team to visit a doctor in Pittsburgh. After playing the Canadiens he tells the media Crosby suffered a concussion.
  • Jan. 29 – Crosby is cleared for off-ice workouts.
  • March 14 – Crosby skates for the first time since suffering the concussion.
  • March 31 – Crosby skates with his teammates for the first time in Sunrise, Fla.
  • April 17 – Crosby stops practicing and all on-ice activity for remainder of the 2010-11 season.
  • June 2 – Crosby is cleared to begin his normal summer workout routine.
  • July 15 – Crosby resumes on-ice workouts.
  • August 24 – Crosby experiences concussion symptoms upon reaching 90-percent exertion. Visits with concussion specialists in Georgia and Michigan. They expect him to make a full recovery.
  • Sept. 7 – Crosby holds media conference with GM Ray Shero and doctors Michael Collins and Ted Carrick. Dr. Collins says Crosby will have “a long, fruitful NHL career.”
  • Sept 17 – Crosby, wearing a white “no contact” helmet, opens training camp with his teammates. He receives a standing ovation from the crowd at CONSOL Energy Center.
  • Oct. 13 – Crosby is cleared for full contact.
  • Nov. 20 – Pens announce that Crosby will return to the lineup on Nov. 21 against the NY Islanders.
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