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The NHL trade deadline came and went without many blockbuster deals (Buffalo and Vancouver had their interesting Kassian-Hodgson move), but all the chatter (especially the Rick Nash talk) managed to silence the Sidney Crosby discussion for a few weeks. Now that Crosby is back in full-contact practice, the NHL media has re-started their endless discussion of the Penguins’ captain. This triggers now-habitual eye-rolling from fans of other teams and many can’t help but feel resentment and disgust over the attention that Sid gets.

But this should be a big deal for everyone who likes hockey. When the greatest player in the game is almost ready to come back, everybody should take notice and be happy about it. That even means you, Flyers fans.

So now that you anti-Crosby folks have completely rolled your eyes out of your head, pull it back together and consider the following: The non-hockey media (ESPN) will try to get more NHL coverage. “Average” fans and non-fans will discuss it, and “average” fans will find a reason to watch more of the NBC Sports Network. I know you hockey elitists don’t like either of these things happening, but the NHL  getting more and positive exposure is insanely important after all the terrible concussion epidemic and press, tragic deaths, and the deep sadness brought on by the Lokomotiv tragedy.

Let’s be clear though: Crosby in no way pushes those concerns to the side. After all, his career is now permanently linked to concussions, Shanabans, and the importance of treatment and diagnoses. But his return does show the bright, shining light of what the sport can be without concussion and why we who enjoy hockey must treasure the moments the athletes have.

And if you’re groaning at the seeming hyperbole of Crosby as a shining light, you betray your prejudice against the greatest player in the NHL. Consider: last season, prior to the Winter Classic, Crosby was on an unimaginable tear that would have put him atop the NHL scoring race without a remotely close competitor. His 82 game point total with his pace was set to reach 64 goals, 68 assists and 132 points. That would have been the most points in a season since Mario Lemieux’s 161 in the 1995-1996 season and only the second 60-goal campaign since that same year for Lemieux. You’d have been allowed to dislike Crosby’s dominance against your team, but any reaction other than sheer respect (or perhaps disbelief) for his whole performance would just be dishonest.

Certainly some concern exists for the possibility of further injuries to Crosby (the question stands: what happens if Sid gets another concussion?). But in the anticipation of his return, the promise of his utter dominance overwhelms any fears, even if only for a moment. Sidney Crosby is important to the NHL and you, too, should support and applaud when he once again gets on the ice.