NHL Blog: The Elder Statesman

10/18/2023. Sidney Crosby is not Sid The Kid anymore. Sidney Crosby has always been special.

Most notable rivalry

NHL fans never seem to tire of the Sidney Crosby versus Alexander Ovechkin rivalry. It has been one of the best match-ups and the most notable modern rivalry in the National Hockey League since both broke into the league in the 2005-2006 season.

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The two captains of their respective teams faced each other for the 66th time in regular season action on friday at the Capital One Arena in Washington. It was the first of the four match-ups to look forward to in 2023-24.

Crosby scored twice on the power play as the Pittsburgh Penguins spoiled the Washington Capitals` home opener by a score of 4-0.

At 36 years of age, just starting his nineteenth season, Sidney Crosby shows no signs of slowing down. No longer Sid The Kid, or The Next One, after three Stanley Cups, two Conn Smythe Trophies, and a whole case full of trophies and medals, the native of tiny Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, has become an elder statesman of sorts for hockey.

The sport that he has never ever let down, on or off the ice. Through all the awards and trophies, all his achievements, Crosby has maintained a low profile. He is not on social media. He remains very gracious when he interacts with hockey fans and the media.

Veterans Hospital

TSN`s legendary play-by-play host Gord Miller told a story recently of Crosby in his hometown after the Penguins had won the Stanley Cup in the summer of 2016. After taking the storied Cup to meet kids at a children`s hospital in Cole Harbour, which was pretty emotional, Crosby asked Miller where else they could venture to.

Miller told Crosby: “Well, there`s a veterans hospital I went to once, around the corner.”. So there they went, Crosby, Miller and the Stanley Cup, to meet a few veterans, to brighten up their day. “So everyone`s in the main meeting room and someone said “too bad Joe`s not here, Joe would have loved this”, said Gord Miller.

Sidney Crosby wanted to know who Joe was. Someone said: “He`s a Korean war veteran, but he`s blind and bedridden, he`s upstairs.” To which Crosby said: “Let`s go”.

So upstairs they went, knocked on the door of Joe`s room and said: “Joe, Sidney Crosby is here with the Stanley Cup.”

“Oh, Im sorry Sid, I`m a Montreal Canadiens fan”, said old Joe as they entered his room. “No problem”, said Crosby, “Who`s your favourite Montreal Canadien?”

“Rocket Richard!”, said Joe.

Sidney Crosby brought the Stanley Cup over to the blind old man, grabbed his hand, and traced his finger over the Rocket`s name engrave.

This is one of the all-time favourite stories of Crosby off the ice. Nobody would have even heard about it had it not been for Gord Miller.

When Sid was The Kid

Sidney Crosby was never going to be just another hockey player.

When he was first drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins, he was known to be bright, personable and a media darling immediately. The only question that remained was whether he could handle the big time.

Sid the Kid proved all his detractors wrong very quickly. In Pittsburgh he was greeted as the team`s saviour. He moved in with living legend, his teammate and owner Mario Lemieux`s family. He performed as an eighteen year old under great expectations and intense scrutiny.

Sidney Crosby quickly became his team`s best player and leading scorer. He played extremely well when the big lights were on in New York, Toronto and Montreal. Crosby rose to every challenge.

In Canada, Crosby was regarded as the next great hope in the unofficial national game. The heir to Rocket Richard and Jean Beliveau and Bobby Orr and Guy Lafleur and Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. He was the gifted hockey player who would accept the torch and carry Canada on to new glory.

Hockey is not just a national game in Canada, it means a lot more. It is how Canadians see themselves, define themselves.

This relatively little kid from Cole Harbour with the low centre of gravity and the slightly goofy smile. He was playing in Pittsburgh, but he was really playing for Canada as well from the first drop of the puck.

Wayne Gretzky did not pick Crosby for Canada`s Olympic team that first season, which fell on its face in Turin. But Crosby scored twenty-six points in his final thirteen games that year, and then went off to Riga to play in the World Championships.

Team Canada failed to win a medal, but the still 18-year-old led the tournament with eight goals and sixteen points. He was chosen top forward.

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Sour Grapes

Not everybody was enamoured with Sid The Kid in the beginning.

Hockey Night in Canada`s very popular Don Cherry accused Sidney of diving, criticized him for yapping at the officials, and did not approve coach Michel Therriens decision to make Crosby the alternate captain of the Penguins on his extremely popular Coach`s Corner segment.

Philadelphia Flyers`s coach Ken Hitchcock called Crosby a diver after he near-single-handedly beat the Flyers. Peter Forsberg said the same, as did the Philadelphia media.

Even in Buffalo, the Sabres` announcers Rick Jeanneret and Jim Lorentz, picked up the same sentiments first spoken by Hitchcock.

After a time, all these accusations, rumours and noise, disappeared. But it is good to remember now, after all these years.

Enjoy while it lasts

Now it is the NHL season 2023-24, and we are watching another phenom, another 18-year old, in Connor Bedard. The Blackhawks` centre has arrived with similar colossal fanfare as Crosby did. Another one who is expected to save the league. Also smaller than the average NHL player.

And there is the most advanced hockey player in history, Connor McDavid.

Keep watching Sidney Crosby. He is still around, and we do not know for how long. His vision still borders on sixth sense. He can still make creative plays in difficult situations. He still plays a fourth-liners game as a superstar, if that makes any sense.

Crosby still elevates every linemate he plays with, based on his ability to draw attention to himself and dish no-look, last-minute passes to his teammates. His linemates, at the moment Jake Guentzel and Brian Rust – both third-round draft picks – are always players who can skate very very fast.

Keep watching.

Sidney Crosby, the elder statesman of the National Hockey League, may still have one or more sensational moments in him.

One more ridiculous backhand goal.

Jouni Nieminen, Edmonton

X: @OnsideWIthJouni
Facebook: Jouni Niemisen NHL
[email protected]

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