“He is out for an indefinite period of time at this point in time. We are preparing … to play without him for the near future.”
Now, if you are like me, you probably guessed that the quote above was likely something Dan Bylsma would have said about his star player, Sidney Crosby. However, it wasn’t the Pittsburgh Penguins head coach who said that, but rather Cornell men’s lacrosse head coach Ben DeLuca ’98.
After today’s game against Canisius, which the Red absolutely killed in, the issue of recently-injured senior attacker/captain Rob Pannell was addressed during the post-game press conference. Very much the white elephant in the room, we media folk wanted to know all the answers just as much as DeLuca didn’t want to share them. So, what started out as an innocent line of questions about the game ended in the dreaded “What is happening with Pannell? When will he return…if ever? What can you tell us, coach?”
I’m one of the many people who become rather frustrated when they don’t know what is going on. Ignorance is bliss, they said. Well, whoever “they” are, they don’t know what it’s like to sit around and come up with 50 alternative possibilities for any given situation. So therefore, like the reporters from the Journal and the local ESPN channel, I wanted to know if DeLuca had anything to say other than the expected “I really just can’t say.”
As you may have guessed, his response was just vague enough to tell us something, yet nothing at the same time. Indefinitely? That could be anything from a few weeks to the entire season. It was at this point that I started thinking about my favorite indefinitely injured athlete — Sidney Crosby.
Anyone who pays attention to the NHL can probably give you a basic lowdown on the Crosby saga. The gist of the story is that Crosby suffered a rather big concussion and has been toying with the heartstrings of Penguins fans everywhere (read: especially mine) ever since. He was said to be out indefinitely, but then after about 10 months of being out, he attempted to stage an epic return. However, things did not go as Sid the Kid would have liked and he’s been back on the injured list for a couple of months now.
But what’s it like for a team to lose such an important, dynamic force? One minute this player is leading the team into battle and then the next minute this guy is sidelined and can’t give the team the rallying pep talk in the locker room because he wasn’t out there in the thick of it. It must be really awful for someone like Crosby to see his team struggle without him (or even succeed without him), so I can only imagine how Pannell must be feeling right now.
One of his friends/teammates, senior midfielder J.J. Gilbane, described the team, and especially game dynamic, as not being the same as before now that Pannell has traded his cleats for crutches as he occupies the sidelines.
“It’s obviously a little different,” Gilbane said. “Rob is an emotional leader, as well as our captain. We love him and he is a tremendous player, but we can’t really focus on that because he’s injured for an indefinite period of time. We need to focus on what we do have and by everyone just going as hard as they can and giving their best effort, we can be happy with what happens.”
So what does this spell for Cornell men’s lacrosse? I have a feeling that much like the Penguins, the rest of the players will step up in their captain’s absence and keep moving forward. The love and respect a team has for its captain is immeasurable (read: Does anyone remember when all of the Penguins wore the ‘C’ on their jerseys in honor of Sid?), so I think that the Cornell players will rally behind Pannell and do whatever they can to help him get back into the game he loves as quickly as possible, all while still making headlines in their own right.
I still don’t quite know what “indefinitely” means when it comes to setting a time table for return from a major injury, but I hope that Pannell (as well as Crosby) makes a quick, healthy return. What the world of sports does not need right now is another injured superstar.