TORONTO // Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain, has called on the NHL to introduce tougher rules to stop players from deliberate head shots as his own season remains in limbo because of a sickening blow.
Crosby, who has been sidelined since January after being heavily concussed from a hit to the head but made a brief appearance at training on Monday, said he wanted the practice banned to protect players from serious injury.
"No matter if it's from the blindside or straight on, if someone targets the head, then yeah, I think that should be banned," Crosby said in an interview published on his team's official website on Monday.
Last season, the league introduced Rule 48, eliminating blindside hits to the head, but Crosby said the rule should be extended to include any deliberate hit, front, back or sideways.
"You're not going to lose anything from the game if you take that away," he said.
"If a guy has enough time to line someone up, then he's got enough time to decide whether he can hit him in the head or not. I think that's pretty realistic."
Crosby's comments came on the same day NHL general managers were meeting in Florida to discuss ways of eradicating the same type of headshots that have sidelined the Canadian Olympic gold medallist.
Already one of the NHL's biggest drawcards, Crosby has missed his team's last 29 games after he was slammed into the end boards by Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman, who did not receive a suspension for the hit.
Prior to his concussion, Crosby had been enjoying perhaps his best season, scoring a then league-leading 66 points from 41 games, but lingering concerns about his health have prevented him from making a comeback.
The 23-year-old made a tentative return to the ice on Monday, skating for just 15 minutes and limiting himself to stickhandling drills and shooting a few pucks.
His appearance immediately triggered speculation that he might return in time for the play-offs but he was quick to hose down the suggestions, saying he remained a long way from even considering a comeback.
"Today is progress but I'm nowhere close to where I need to be as far as being in shape," he said.
"I'm not even going to talk about that, I just want to be able to get through that without getting a headache, let alone worrying about where my conditioning is at.
"It's frustrating but at the same time when you go through all those things, I think the most important thing is that you just feel normal and you're able to do things."