Welcome Back Sidney Crosby

On Wednesday January 5th, 2011, you were probably still a little upset. A few days earlier you'd seen Alex Ovechkin celebrate the Washington Capitals' Winter Classic victory at Heinz Field. The final episode of HBO's 24/7 was about to air and you knew that you'd end up watching Ovechkin's celebration all over again while Bruce Boudreau patted himself on the back.

The excitement and joy of the holiday and the new year were already starting to die down. Sure, the Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 8-1 that night, but Sidney Crosby was held to a single assist in the first period. At this point you didn't know it, but that this was the last time you would see Sidney Crosby play professional hockey for almost a year.

Before the Penguins' next game against the Montreal Canadiens, the news came. It probably hit you like a punch to the stomach. "Crosby will miss the game due to an upper-body injury."

Your mind raced back to the Winter Classic. Didn't Crosby get hit in the head that night? And he didn't look right against Tampa Bay either…. "It's probably nothing," you likely tried to convince yourself. "He just needs some time off and some rest."

Then came the news: "Crosby Out for About a Week with Mild Concussion."

Head coach Dan Bylsma told the media that captain Sidney Crosby suffered a mild concussion that will put him out of the lineup for "about a week."

"Sidney has a mild concussion and that's the update on Sid," he said. "I have not talked to Sid about this. I just got the report through the doctors that he went home and he's got a mild concussion."

Bylsma said that Crosby would have to be "symptom-free" before returning, and that his recovery will take about a week.

When asked if Crosby showed any symptoms after the Winter Classic, he replied: "We wouldn't have thought he was OK to play (against Tampa Bay if he had symptoms). He certainly saw doctors."

"Mild." "About a week." This didn't sound so bad, you thought as you frantically Googled "concussion" and "recovery."

We didn't know it at the time, but we were all about to learn much more about concussions than we ever imagined we would. And this whole situation was going to take a very, very long time to resolve itself.

For the next ten months there was no shortage of speculation, rumors and second-guessing. "Crosby is coming back for the playoffs." "Crosby is going to retire." "The Pens medical staff are to blame for his injury." "Crosby's condition is getting worse." "Sid is close to being cleared." "The team is upset with him." "Crosby is coming back for the start of the regular season." "Crosby is out for another year." "Stop talking about Sidney Crosby."

Even people who weren't hockey fans came up to you and asked "So what's up with Crosby?" It was a tough time for everyone. Each time we saw a video of Sidney Crosby on ice, we desperately hoped that he would be close to returning. Each time we heard anyone speak about him, we tried to diagnose exactly what they really meant. We hoped and we waited. And we waited. And we waited.

And so did he.

Sidney Crosby loves the game of hockey. You know it had to be killing him to miss that much time. Every time the Penguins struggled you knew he wished that he could do something to help. But he couldn't. It was much, much too risky. Hockey is one thing, being able to live a normal life is another. So he had to sit and wait. And so did we. So did the hockey world.

But now it's time. Tonight Sidney Crosby returns. Just being able to watch him play hockey again will be exciting. The simple fact that he'll be able to participate in the game he loves once again is more than enough. It will just be great to see him out there again. This is the first truly incredible moment in Consol Energy Center history. We hope the crowd delivers.

Sidney Crosby's first few games back will be a weird combination of celebration and speculation. The world will be watching his every move and asking "Is he the same?" Pretty much every person who loves hockey will be nervously hoping that Sidney Crosby is okay, no matter what team they cheer for. For the first little while, it will be very strange.

Then one day, in some arena somewhere, maybe in Philadelphia or in Washington but perhaps somewhere else, you'll hear it.  The first "Crosby Sucks" chant will break out. You'll start seeing people on message boards and blogs calling him a "whiner" and a "diver" and a "baby" again. And, for the first time, you'll smile because everything will be back to normal.

Sidney Crosby will be back.