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December 7, 2012

Crosby mulling options as lockout drags on

CANONSBURG — Sidney Crosby just wants to get back to work. At this point, where he takes the ice hardly matters.

The Pittsburgh Penguins star said Friday the prospect of lacing up his skates in Europe is growing more appealing as the NHL lockout nears the three-month mark. The latest round of talks between owners and players broke down Thursday night, leaving Crosby “disappointed” and considering other opportunities.

“I just want to play hockey,” Crosby told reporters after an informal workout with some of his teammates on Friday morning. “As far as whatever option is best there, I’ll start thinking of it a lot more because this stuff is getting ridiculous.”

Crosby spent three days in New York this week as part of the negotiations and felt progress was being made until NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman shot down any growing optimism during an emotionally charged press conference in which the commissioner scoffed at the idea the sides were close to a deal.

With no deal in the works, Crosby ended up taking a late-night flight back to Pittsburgh and wondering what else the players could have done to move things along.

“I think we knew what the issues were and we moved on those,” Crosby said. “I think if it’s the case there like Gary said in his press conference, where they’re going to draw a line in the sand, just say that, don’t waste guys’ times there.”

The lockout has become another setback in a maddening two years for the game’s most popular player. The 2007 NHL MVP and 2010 Olympic gold medalist has been limited to just 28 games since January 2011 due to a series of debilitating concussions. He’s healthy now and signed a 12-year contract extension last summer that would keep him in Pittsburgh until his late 30s.

Yet instead of focusing on getting the Penguins back to the Stanley Cup, Crosby has spent the past three months trying to help salvage at least part of the season. All games through Dec. 14, along with the New Year’s Day Winter Classic and the All-Star game, have been canceled. The last NHL lockout resulted in the 2004-05 season getting wiped out.

“The foundation (for a deal) is there and I don’t think we can move any more,” Crosby said. “We’ve done everything from our side to make this work.”

Though any foreign team that signs Crosby would also have to take out an expensive insurance policy, Crosby maintains playing overseas – where dozens of NHL players are keeping sharp, including Penguins teammate Evgeni Malkin – is a “practical” alternative.

“I think I’ve tried to be optimistic and things like that and given it every chance possible,” Crosby said. “But I’ve got make sure I keep playing hockey. I haven’t played for awhile.”

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