Bergeron: Crosby's return good for him and NHL

MONTREAL -- The news that Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby would return to the lineup Monday night against the Islanders was cheered not only by the hockey world but also by friend and two-time teammate Patrice Bergeron. Crosby, who took an inadvertent hit to the head during the Winter Classic last season and then another head shot from Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman the following game, has not played since January due to post-concussion syndrome.

“I am happy to hear that not just for him as a hockey player but for him a person first and foremost,” Bergeron said. “I think his health is the most important thing and I’m very happy to hear that. It’s obviously a good thing for the league and good for him.”

Bergeron, who battled similar symptoms after suffering a severe concussion in October 2007 and missed the remainder of the 2007-08-season season, can relate to what Crosby has gone through not being able to play and wondering when he may be ready to return.

“It’s not easy as an athlete. You want to come back as fast as you can and help your team,” Bergeron said. “It’s hard to have to be patient and not being able to contribute being on the ice. It’s not easy but he’s done the right thing with that injury and I’m sure the medical staff, him and all the training staff in the organization made the right decision to pull him out and take as much time as needed.”

While Bergeron said he has no idea how Crosby will feel back on the ice, he recalled when he returned for the beginning of the 2008-09 season.

“Nervousness is there and you’re anxious and really excited,” said Bergeron, who also has suffered two more concussions since his first in 2007. “You just want to get that first one out of the way and have it behind you so you can just look forward. I’m sure he’s going to feel the same way but I can’t really speak for him. Obviously I’ve been through it, but everyone is different.”

Bergeron cautioned the media and fans not to jump to conclusions should Crosby struggle to find his game early on in his return. As he pointed out, it took a while for him to finally feel and play like himself when he returned.

“For myself, it was more my timing and the rhythm of the game,” said Bergeron, who said he has kept in touch with Crosby via texts. “It’s one thing to practice but it’s a whole other thing to be involved in a game and game-like situations. So I guess that was the biggest thing.”

As Bergeron’s game has progressed, so has the concussion awareness and precautions in the hockey world. Following that concussion in 2007, Bergeron became an advocate of preventing and being aware of concussions, and he said he is impressed with how far the game has come in that respect.

“I think we’re definitely going in the right direction,” Bergeron said. “It’s been a lot better. There’s been a lot more awareness with those types of hits. Especially the league now is doing a great job with the new rules and the blindside hits. I think it’s been helping and we hear about it a little bit more -- those injuries -- and the doctors are doing a good job of recognizing it and trying to prevent it as well. Also, the equipment companies are trying to find different ways to help as well. So there’s a lot of things in the last year or two that has been going on and I think between players, the awareness is better too.”