OTTAWA – The biggest news at the NHL's All-Star weekend on Saturday had nothing to do with the players on the ice participating in the made-for-television skills competition.
It was all about one who wasn't.
The Pittsburgh Penguins confirmed an initial report from Canada's SportsNet that captain Sidney Crosby isn't just dealing with another concussion, but also a neck injury that was revealed during an MRI.
Pat Brisson, Crosby's agent, told Hockey Night in Canada that Crosby may have fractured the C1 and C2 vertebrae. The Penguins had not confirmed that Crosby suffered another concussion until releasing their statement Saturday night. Crosby's neck injury was discovered by Los Angeles-based neurological spine specialist Dr. Robert S. Bray.
Various news outlets are reporting that Crosby is back in Pittsburgh and will be evaluated there.
“Dr. Bray reports that the neck injury is fully healed,'' the statement from the Penguins read. “Those findings will be evaluated by independent specialists over the next few days. The most important goal all along has been Sidney's return to full health, and we are encouraged that progress continues to be made.”
Crosby missed last year's All-Star game as he was held off the ice from January through November. Crosby returned Nov. 21 and played in eight games before concussion symptoms after a hard hit from Boston's David Krejci on Dec. 5 shut him down again.
Alex Ovechkin, Crosby's rival as far as popularity goes, was also missing from the festivities as he decided to skip the weekend after the NHL suspended him three games for a shot to the head of Pittsburgh's Zbynek Michalek. Ovechkin will miss Washington's game against the Panthers in Sunrise on Wednesday.
As far as Crosby goes, the Penguins confirmed he has been doing some on-ice work both in Los Angeles and Atlanta. General Ray Shero told reporters he was optimistic Crosby would be back this season.
"We want to continue to look to see how we can get this under control and manageable,'' Shero told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Hopefully we'll have him back here at some point soon."
Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr met with the media Saturday morning with both saying there is no real rush to sit down at the bargaining table. The Collective Bargaining Agreement, which has been in effect since the lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 season, expires Sept. 15.
"My guess is we'll have some discussions in the not-too-distant future," Bettman told reporters after Saturday morning's board of governors meeting. "We're ready, and have been ready. But the union has had some work to do. .-.-. We're patient. I'm not concerned about the time frame."
() Bettman announced the 2013 All-Star Weekend will be held next January in Columbus, Ohio. The Blue Jackets hosted the 2007 NHL Draft in which the Panthers selected Keaton Ellerby with the 10th overall pick and also traded for goalie Tomas Vokoun.
() Brian Campbell, the lone representative from the Panthers at All-Star Weekend, competed in two events at Saturday's skills competition.
Campbell stumbled out of the gate in his fastest skate competition – the first event of the night – losing in the one-lap race to Pittsburgh's Kris Letang. Campbell also competed in the accurate shot competition.
Campbell will play for captain Zdeno Chara's team in Sunday's All-Star Game. Chara, meanwhile, won his fifth straight 'hardest shot' title by ripping a shot in a record 108.8 mph. The Bruins captain is the first person to win the event five straight times, eclipsing Hall of Famer Al MacInnis.
“It was fun being down there and seeing it all go down,'' Campbell said. “[Chara] is a tall, tall man. Not many guys are going to get in front of that shot after seeing that. That's why penalty killers are a special breed. They'll sacrifice.''
Chara, who started his NHL career with the Senators, got a warm greeting from the sold out crowd on Saturday.