The Sheet: Crosby saga continues

Sidney Crosby.

Yes, the story continues.

Is he healthy enough to make it to training camp? Has he had a setback? Is he symptom-free?

As often as the stories updating his health pop up they are quickly extinguished by his agent Pat Brisson and GM Ray Shero.

Sort of.

Much of this is a semantic dance. Does changing one’s workout routine mean his recovery has taken a step back?

Maybe but we just don’t know. And as I’ve said before on this blog, until I hear a definite either way from the Crosby camp I’m going to take every report with a grain of salt and probably a dose of skepticism.

Having said that there have been no flat denials that Crosby is still suffering the effects of last season’s concussion nor has there been any assertion that he is 100 per cent certain to be at training camp. That’s too much grey area about Crosby’s grey matter for this not to be an ongoing story.

And like it or not the story is not going away and like it or not any news about Sidney Crosby in the NHL world and specifically Canada is huge news.

There is a way to settle this all down and that’s for Crosby himself to come out and update where he’s at. And while this is not to cast any aspersions on the credibility of Brisson and Shero, they are in the business of protecting their client/star player. And while a statement from Crosby wouldn’t make this story go away it certainly would sharpen the pencils around the story a little finer.

As it stands now we have a media race to be the first to the finish line on whether Crosby will be healthy enough to start the season. We all know that nailing down timelines for concussion recovery is like throwing darts at a moving target in a zero-gravity chamber, but a few words from Crosby himself I think (I hope) would help people manage their expectations a little better.

I’m not recommending a press conference — the last thing anyone wants is for a concussed player to be assaulted with questions while flash bulbs go off in his face — but something more along the lines of a released statement.

His owner and former landlord knows all about those.

Speaking of the Penguins, an interesting piece on Matt Cooke by Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has the forward talking about his controversial hits, his suspensions and how he’s going to change the way he plays hockey.

On a lighter note my favourite Matt Cooke story was when he was playing with the Vancouver Canucks around Christmas 1998. Cooke, apparently, had this Christmas sweater that he was quite proud of but to his teammates quite the opposite was true. I’m told this thing was hideous and a real source of ridicule from just about every Canuck.

One day at practice, some teammates (I’ll leave out the names of the guilty parties involved) went into Cooke’s locker, stole the sweater and had one of the rink attendants mount it and raise it to the rafters at what was then called GM Place. After the skate Cooke went looking for his prized fashion faux pas and when he couldn’t find it a couple of the guys let him in on the gag and showed him where it was, while quipping, “That’s the only time you’ll ever get one of your sweaters raised to the rafters, Cookie.”

The next day Cooke showed up at the rink with a padlock for his clothes.

Mike Brophy with an excellent piece on some of the burning questions in the NHL this season. Among them was this one: “Will the NHL’s new sheriff, Brendan Shanahan, come down harder on the league’s rule breakers than his predecessor Colin Campbell?”

Hot seat time for Shanny early this season when he faces his first suspension situation. Campbell always maintained his suspensions were partly based on the directives from the GMs and how they want supplemental to work (namely “be tough Colie, unless it’s my guy then well, you know, hockey’s a tough sport old pal”) and the historical precedents that had been set.

Curious to see if Shanahan uses any previous suspensions as benchmarks or will he in essence wipe the suspension slate clean because if he does the first suspension could be a whopper to send a message early.

Congratulations to friend and Rogers Sportsnet colleague Brad May, who was named assistant coach of the Mississauga St. Mike’s Majors of the Ontario Hockey League. If any of you have ever met Brad you know those kids are in for a treat but also a lot of hard work.

And I have a strong feeling May will really like working with Anaheim pick Devante Smith-Pelly and I’m sure the feeling will be mutual. Besides having a solid skill set, DSP is a physical player who likes to throw his weight around. Hello, Mayday. May will also help the young man with his transition to the Ducks franchise; he did, after all, win a Cup there in 2007 and knows the organization intimately.

Canadian female hockey payer Delaney Collins called it a career yesterday with three IIHF World Championship medals around her neck. Cassie Campbell-Pascall called her the “Phil Housley of women’s hockey” who always made that great, smart first pass. Size, Campbell-Pascall felt, always held her back but she still should have been on more of the national teams.

On Twitter this morning our friend Dmitry Chesnokov (@dchesnokov) of Puck Daddy, knower of all things Russian hockey-related, found something nifty: the KHL preseason has started and with it brings … a fight. Jon (Nasty) Mirasty of Vityaz meet Alexander Svitov (remember him Tampa fans?) of Salavat Yulaev. Enjoy!

Programming note: I’m just now in the process of finalizing a plan for a podcast for “The Sheet.” I’ll get you more details as we work through how this is all going to come together but right now it looks like we’ll be launching right around the start of training camps.

On this day in hockey history

1880: Russell Bowie born in Montreal, Quebec. Bowie was a star for the Montreal Victorias at the turn of the century. Bowie was devout in his stance to remain an amateur, refusing to take money to play hockey and once turned down a signing bonus of a grand piano (he was an avid musician) to turn pro and play with the Montreal Wanderers. Montreal went as far as to have the piano delivered to Bowie’s house on opening night but the player refused to sign and sent the piano back. When the NHA (forerunner of the NHL) was formed in 1909 Bowie retired and returned only to play in charity games. And to demonstrate how much of a great a player he was when the Hockey Hall of Fame was created in 1945, Bowie was one of the original 12 inductees.

1936: Murray Balfour born in Regina, Saskatchewan. Balfour played with the Habs, Hawks and Bruins in his NHL career that spanned 1956-’65. Best known for being one-third of the “Million Dollar Line” with Bobby Hull and Bill Hay, and scoring a triple overtime goal in the ’61 semi-final against Montreal to end their streak of five Stanley Cups in a row. That was two years after Montreal had sold him to Chicago. Balfour died of cancer at the young age of 28.

1944: Bill Goldsworthy born in Waterloo, Ontario. One of the most flamboyant and entertaining players ever (who could forget the Goldie shuffle after every goal?) Goldsworthy played in the NHL from 1964-’78 with Boston, Minnesota and the N.Y. Rangers. He was a speedy skater and had a taste for the net but he also had a taste for the party life. After years of boozing and carousing he tested positive for HIV in 1994. He died two years later.

1951: Rich LeDuc born in Île Perrot, Quebec. LeDuc played with Boston and Quebec in the NHL but is perhaps best known as the player who scored the goal that earned Wayne Gretzky his first pro assist while the two played with the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA in 1978.

1953: Norm Barnes born in Toronto, Ontario. Barnes played with Philadelphia and Hartford in an NHL career that spawned from 1976-’82 but perhaps his wife Sid, who was a singer, was more important to Philly fans. When she sang the anthem at the Spectrum the Flyers posted an 8-0-2 record. Take that Kate Smith.

1980: Peter and Anton Stastny leave the Czechoslovakian national team after a 4-3 loss against the Soviet Union in Innsbruck, Austria and defect to Canada to play with the Quebec Nordiques.

1992: San Jose trades Brian Mullen to the Islanders for Marcus Thuresson. Mullen was part of the first trade the Sharks ever made in May of 1991 when they sent Tim Kerr to the Rangers in exchange for him. As a youth Mullen was a stick boy for the New York Rangers from 1977-’79 (his father worked with the maintenance crew at MSG).