Public sentiment appears to be turning against Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, slowly but surely. Those who are preaching patience as he battles concussion-like symptoms for a second time this year remain the overwhelming majority.
But more and more people are wondering if Crosby will be the same player again, which is to say the best in the world. They're wondering if he will survive for the long haul in the brutally physical NHL game. They are comparing him to Eric Lindros and Pat LaFontaine, players who were forced to retire prematurely because of concussions.
Some are more extreme.
A few -- I'll call them the lunatic fringe -- are saying the Penguins should look into trading him before the rest of the hockey world discovers he's soft.
Leave the nonsensical "Cindy" Crosby stuff to the moronic hockey fans in Philadelphia.
Patience is the only way to go with Crosby. He has more at stake than just hockey. He's 24 with a long life ahead. Concussions, as we are learning more and more each day, are nothing to minimize. Clearly, he shouldn't play again until he's ready.
But being patient can be difficult. I won't argue that. It was difficult when Crosby took hits to the head in games Jan. 1 and Jan. 5, then missed the final 41 regular-season games of the 2010-11 season, the seven-game first-round playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the first 20 games of this season. It's going to be especially difficult now that he lasted just eight games after making a spectacular comeback Nov. 21 against the New York Islanders.
Crosby confirmed the bad news Monday, announcing that he's again dealing with concussion-like symptoms, perhaps from a hit from Boston's David Krejci Dec. 5 that didn't appear to be all that ferocious. He said he didn't feel right the next day, reported a slight headache after practicing the day after that and said he has done only "light (exertion) stuff" since.
"There's no timetable" for a return, Crosby said.
And the days ahead?
"Kind of that whole routine again," Crosby said of the agonizing, one-step-at-a-time process that led to his first comeback.
"But hopefully not as long."
Are you thinking what I'm thinking? That it's pointless to speculate when Crosby will play again? Certainly, no one connected with the Penguins will do it. Not after coach Dan Bylsma talked of him having a "minor" concussion in January and making the prediction he would be back in a week or so.
That week or so turned into 320 days.
The wait almost seemed worth it when Crosby made that fabulous return against the Islanders. None of the Penguins were surprised when he played so well. He scored on his first shot. He finished with two goals and two assists with eight shots on goal. Of course, the Penguins weren't surprised. They had watched Crosby practice for weeks, saw him blow by their defensemen every day with his incredible speed, marveled as he did things with the puck that no other human can do.
Now, the Penguins -- like the rest of us -- have to wonder when that day will come again for Crosby.
"Sid knows his body better than anybody else," Bylsma said. "He's not feeling 100 percent. He'll return to practice and playing when he is feeling 100 percent. That's where you go."
You think you're frustrated?
Imagine the frustration in the Penguins room.
Imagine Crosby's frustration.
"Frustrated doesn't even describe it," he said.
This is for the lunatic fringe:
Forget that no one becomes the absolute best in any professional sport by being soft. Forget that Crosby led his team to a Stanley Cup championship and his country to an Olympic gold medal. Forget that he's the face of the NHL.
Once you understand how much hockey means to Crosby, you'll never say he's soft again.
I've never been around a player who loves his sport more.
Mario Lemieux had more hockey ability, but he never loved the game as much. He played it because he was great at it and made a fortune from it.
Crosby is making a fortune, too. No one is saying otherwise. A contract worth $8.7 million a year qualifies as a fortune.
But Crosby lives for hockey. The money just happens to be a bonus. I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting he would play for nothing -- no one would -- but I'll bet he would think twice about it.
Crosby will play again.
It's nice to think it really will be worth the wait.