PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Sidney Crosby didn't expect to return to Vancouver this way.
Crosby, still mending eight months after receiving a concussion, accompanied the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday as they began their first road trip of the season.
But he won't play during the three-game swing to Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
He also won't be shedding the white helmet that signifies he can't experience contact while practising. Because Crosby won't meet with any of his concussion specialists during a trip that ends Sunday, he doesn't expect to be cleared for contact.
"I'm not going to see a doctor while I'm on the road, so I wouldn't expect that, no," said Crosby, the NHL's runaway leader in goals and points when he was injured last season.
During the Penguins' training camp, Crosby didn't experience of any of the post-concussion symptoms — including headaches, dizziness and an inability to concentrate — that bothered him for months. But he can't resume playing until he proves he can handle contact during practice.
Crosby is encouraged at being symptom free, recognizing it as a major step forward in his recovery.
"I'm happy to be out there, and when the time comes I'll make sure I'm ready," Crosby said. "To be honest, I'm just happy to be out there and working hard. It was a long time I wasn't able to do that. It's nice to be out there and go hard."
While he won't be playing, Thursday will be Crosby's first game-related appearance in Vancouver since his overtime goal sealed Canada's 3-2 victory over the United States in a memorable gold-medal game at last year's Olympics.
"A little different watching," Crosby said. "Still, some great memories there. And it's nice to just be going with the team and starting a new season, even if (I'm) not playing, it's kind of fresh start and we all look forward to that."
Crosby is most looking forward to restarting his career, though he won't guess when that might be. The Penguins have said only that he won't play until he is fully recovered.
An Olympic gold medallist, Stanley Cup champion and NHL MVP by the time he was 22, Crosby was his Canada's most recognized athlete even before he was hurt.
His attempt to recover from a major injury, resume his career and return to a relatively normal life has resulted in even more scrutiny of him, even though he does not play for a Canadian-based NHL team.
Crosby isn't necessarily surprised by that, although he was disappointed at some false stories that surfaced during the summer, including one that he was contemplating retirement.
Crosby turned 24 less than two months ago and, at his age, should have a lengthy career still to play — if he can recover from receiving two hard hits in as many games over a span of only five days.
"I probably didn't need this to happen to realize that things are followed pretty closely. I think you're always learning, though," Crosby said. "I don't know if you're surprised, you just react and learn. That's life, you're always kind of learning. You try to take away (what) you can from each situation, good or bad, and I've tried to do that over the last eight months."