It’s hockey season again and that means a return to the sort of rampant speculation over minor details we all know and love. Enter the story of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby, who missed Sunday’s practice after leaving Saturday’s scrimmage early.
Naturally, such news is enough to send tongues wagging across the hockey world. Why did he leave? What could be wrong?
The NHL, thanks to COVID-19, has a whole new protocol of non-disclosure when it comes to information. And that’s led to a whole new ballgame of conjecture, the lifeblood of sports journalism and social media activity.
So here’s what we know:
On Saturday, Crosby skated with linemates Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary during the scrimmage. At around the second period of practice, he left the ice and did not return. And yes, you can see the exact moment Sid leaves the ice and watch the live chat react because the Penguins are streaming their scrimmages.
After Crosby left the ice, Sheary stated his belief it was a “maintenance issue” while the rest of the organization didn’t comment because they can’t comment.
Welcome to the “unfit to play” description, which is the NHL’s catch-all answer to coronavirus privacy concerns. Players the league over have been and will be listed as “unfit to play” for a variety of reasons, all of which will invite more and more conjecture and sometimes wild guesses over what could be wrong.
Evan Rodrigues skated with Sheary and Guentzel at practice Sunday, a sign some are taking that any potential issue with Crosby is a minor one. The expectation is that head coach Mike Sullivan would’ve done a little more creative line-juggling had he believed Crosby would be out for a longer period of time.
Case in point: Guentzel was pushed up to skate with Evgeni Malkin when Crosby was out with hernia surgery.
More than anything, at least to my eyes, this is another case of the issues associated with the NHL’s “unfit to play” doctrine. While the rationale behind it is sound and necessary, we can certainly all look forward to the extensive questions and suppositions to come every time a player leaves the ice early, coughs, or doesn’t behave in an expected fashion.