Sid heads up changes in game

Sidelined with a concussion, Sidney Crosby skates during a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey practice at...

Sidelined with a concussion, Sidney Crosby skates during a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey practice at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Friday, October 7, 2011. The Penguins would face the Calgary Flames the following night. (LYLE ASPINALL/QMI Agency)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:19 PM ET

Sidney Crosby always seems to somehow find himself at the centre of attention.

When it’s not for his incredible skills on the ice, it’s for the reasons and results of him being kept off it.

With the NHL’s most talented player sidelined since last January because of post-concussion problems, the league has taken head shots pretty seriously. They can’t afford to have the careers of fan magnets come to an early end because of irresponsible hockey.

On a deeper level than the Brendan Shanahan bans that have been rampant all pre-season, even the grassroots game is changing.

Crosby won’t take full credit for the fact head shots are now being banned by Hockey Canada at all minor, junior, senior and female levels, but he admits his situation probably helped speed up the process and awareness.

“I think it’s part of it, for sure. But at the same time, it was a topic of discussion leading up to my hit,” Crosby said Friday after practice at the Saddledome. “I think it had to be looked at a little bit closer.

“For kids growing up now, it’ll be easy for them to adjust. That’s what they’re gonna know — they’re gonna know there’s no headshots, and I’m sure they’ll adapt according to that.

“For us (in the NHL), it’s a little bit different. There’s an adjustment there. We didn’t grow up playing with those rules, so everyone’s got to be a little more responsible and figure things out.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction for sure.”

Shanahan will help the players figure it out. And the backlash from certain personalities like Don Cherry is worth it as far as Sidney Crosby is concerned.

“Everyone’s gonna have opinions, and they’re gonna have real strong opinions,” Crosby said. “I think it’s a matter of adjusting. Nobody wants to see the physical play taken out of hockey.

“There’s 50,000 hits a year and we’re talking about taking out maybe 50. I don’t think we’re changing the game.”

Fans might not see Crosby’s game for a while yet.

His next step is being cleared for contact. There’s no timeline for it, but the way he’s been practising, if no symptoms return, he may be back sooner than some expect.

“First things first, it’s just making sure there’s no return of any symptoms or anything like that,” Crosby said. “It’s been nice the last few weeks to go hard, be around the team, not feel like kind of on the outside looking in. I’m happy to be going hard out there and preparing to come back.

“I’ve gone as hard as I can and tried to push it as much as I can. I’ve responded well. I think it’s just more a matter of time and kind of pushing it to the next level — contact, and how I respond to that.

“Everything else leading up to this point has gone really well.”

Including the way the league is attempting to make sure it won’t happen again in the future.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


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