Don't Trust Sidney Crosby with Your Car Keys
The savior of the Pittsburgh Penguins is not the kid you think he is.
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As Crosby, 23, leads the Penguins into a new era at the CONSOL Energy Center, he’s also preparing to move into a house of his own that’s not far from his former landlord, Mario Lemieux.
Photo © 2010 Pittsburgh Penguins/Gregory Shamus
Sid the Captain
Oct. 19, 2010–Penguins practice facility at Southpointe
The Penguins are sweating out their last practice before a long road trip that will take them to Nashville, St. Louis and Tampa, and the team has been on the ice for so long that even the media bystanders are getting tired. Penguins radio announcer Phil Bourque taps his watch and sighs, “Let’s wrap it up, boys.”
Finally, after two hours of intense scrimmaging and checking drills, coach Dan Bylsma blows his whistle, and the players wearily glide toward the locker room. Everyone except for defenseman Kris Letang, goalie Fleury and Crosby.
The Zamboni driver idles in the runway and looks on impatiently as Crosby feeds puck after puck to Letang, a supremely talented 23-year-old ready to light the NHL on fire—if only he starts hitting the net.
“Again,” Crosby says, drifting another pass into Letang’s wheelhouse. The shot ricochets wide off the Plexiglas.
Letang is spent. He leans on his stick as a crutch while Crosby collects more pucks. The Zamboni driver dozes off in his captain’s chair. Fleury spreads his arms out and leans back on the net like it’s a beach lounger. “You can’t beat me,” he taunts as his goofball grin beams through the bars of his mask.
Twenty pucks later, Letang finally hits the sweet spot and unleashes a slapshot visible only as a vapor trail. The puck thunks in the back of the net before Fleury can even react.
Without a word, Crosby skates over to the runway and stops. Fleury and Letang follow. Time to go home. Crosby, always the last off the ice, taps both of them on the butt with his stick as they retreat to the showers.
“That one,” Crosby tells Letang, “was a beauty.”
Back in the sparce locker room, Sid is dripping with sweat and still taking off his gear while most of the team is heading home. “Winning the Stanley Cup wasn’t easy,” he says. “It was a lot harder maybe than it looked. This is where the work starts.”
Two nights later in Nashville, the Penguins are deadlocked in an intense overtime struggle with the Predators when Crosby collects the puck at the blueline. He doesn’t even need to look where he’s passing. He floats the puck to where Letang will be before Letang is even there. It’s déjà vu. It’s Swiss clockwork.
Letang unleashes a replica of the shot that beat Fleury in practice 48 hours earlier when no one—except for Crosby—was watching. Nashville’s goalie doesn’t have a chance.
In the euphoric pig-pile of noogies and hugs that ensues, the only guy smiling wider than Letang is his captain and best friend, Crosby. The extra reps paid off.
“The first Cup win is definitely behind us now,” says Crosby. “It’s a fun memory to look back on, but I don’t want it to be the only one I look back on. The only thing on our minds is getting back there again.”
It’s easy to take Crosby’s sublime performances on the ice for granted. After all, they happen night in, night out. Truth is, his Russian rival, Capitals winger Alexander Ovechkin, possesses far greater raw talent. In fact, many players are probably more physically gifted than Crosby, who stands 5 feet 11 inches and weighs 200 pounds.
The real genius of No. 87 is his unparalleled work ethic. He is the Warren Buffett of sweat equity. And he will stay at the rink until the Zamboni driver falls asleep in order to make his teammates better.