Penguins center and NHL scoring champion Sidney Crosby admitted yesterday that he perpetuated a lie over the past several weeks, although he figured he had a good reason.
To keep opponents from exploiting a vulnerability, Crosby has been hiding the fact that he sustained a broken bone in his left foot March 16 when he blocked a shot in the first period of a 6-3 win against Montreal at Mellon Arena.
He continued to play despite the pain, but he will skip the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships that begin next weekend in Moscow to give the foot a chance to fully heal. He will not require surgery.
"The first two weeks were pretty sore," said Crosby, who used only light padding in his skate so as not to give away the injury.
"After that, it started to heal, so it got a little bit better. When we got to the playoffs, it was sore, but it wasn't grueling or anything. I got hit there a couple times after [the initial injury]. It didn't help it, but I was fine. It just needs time."
Crosby's spring has not gone as planned. He had hoped to still be active in the playoffs, but the Penguins were ousted in the first round by Ottawa in five games.
Now his second choice, joining Team Canada for the World Championships, is gone. Last year, Crosby became the youngest player to win the scoring title at worlds and was named the tournament's top forward after getting eight goals and 16 points in nine games.
"I wanted to be a part of it, especially in Moscow, a place I've always wanted to play," Crosby said.
There still could be good offseason news for Crosby. He said he and the Penguins might explore a long-term contract. His three-year entry contract expires in 2008. With a new contract before then, he would avoid becoming a restricted free agent next year.
"With the [collective bargaining agreement] rules, it's a possibility," Crosby said. "We'll see what happens with that. We'll give it a month for everyone to think about it."
Crosby wasn't sure how he will spend his summer.
"I didn't make any plans to leave because I was hoping to be playing for a long time," he said.
Crosby would have continued to play despite the broken foot if the Penguins remained alive in the playoffs. He sought assurance he would not risk permanent damage by playing.
"Obviously, I want to play for a long time, and, at the same time I want to help my team," he said. "You have to make sure you understand what's going on. I talked to the doctor and the trainers and made sure that if I was to play through it, it wasn't something that would bother me for a long period of time or always going to be nagging.
"It's definitely going to take a little bit longer [to heal] since I played with it."
While playing with the injury, he had five goals, nine assists for 14 points and averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time the final 11 games of the regular season and had five points in five playoff games.
The foot injury will not keep him from conditioning in the offseason, he said.
A couple of things are settled for Crosby for next season.
He plans to live with the family of team co-owner and retired Hall of Fame player Mario Lemieux for a third season.
"You won't have to ask me next year," Crosby said. "I'll commit now and say I'll be back at Mario's."
Crosby also will have a new Penguins cap, replacing the sweat-stained black one he kept at his locker stall all season out of superstition and that yesterday had this message taped to it:
"Please wash me. I can't stand this anymore. -- Hat"
Shelly Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1721.