A few weeks ago in Edmonton, the NHL’s brightest star was compelled to stay inside his hotel room with two security guards outside the door.
But here in Sunrise, Fla., where the NHL typically breeds apathy, Sidney Crosby is sitting in a corner adjacent to the hotel lobby, text messaging, kibitzing with a couple teammates and not being bothered at all.
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It speaks volumes for Sid the Kid, then, that he and the Pittsburgh Penguins drew a sellout crowd at BankAtlantic Center last night. It was the first time in years that there were no empty seats for a Florida Panthers’ home game.
“If you don’t want to see Crosby,” Florida fan Daniel McNealy was saying, “you have absolutely no interest in the NHL. He’s the one hockey player I’d pay to watch.”
Indeed, Crosby is the face of the NHL. At 20, he is the league’s reigning MVP and scoring champion. He also is the youngest team captain in NHL history.
But his youth and boyish smile don’t camouflage his unusually mature approach.
“It’s a huge honour to get the C,” Crosby said, “but I’ve also been trying to make sure that I don’t put too much pressure on myself. I’ve tried to remind myself to try to be the same way and not put extra pressure on myself. I think I put enough on myself as it is.”
It’s working, of course. Entering last night, Crosby was fourth in the league with 57 points and first with 40 assists.
“He’s the best player in the NHL,” Panthers defenceman Bryan Allen said. “He can elevate his game to a level that nobody else in the league can.”
Crosby knows how good he is, of course, but he isn’t arrogant about it. He’s a team guy. When he signed a five-year, $43.5-million US contract extension with the Pens recently, he took $1.3 million less than he could have received under the salary cap rules so his club could sign other players.
Mind you, he’s paid considerably more than $1.3 million through his endorsement deals — all four of them. Crosby also will be on the cover of the February issue of Men’s Fitness, which hits newsstands Monday.
If all the attention is affecting him, though, he sure has a clever way of hiding it.
“I try to be myself, although I have to say no sometimes,” he said. “I don’t like to, but it’s important. I’m trying to learn how to manage my life properly.”
He’s learning quite well.
In three-plus decades as a columnist and broadcaster, Marty York has built a network of solid contacts and a renowned reputation for his hard-hitting, groundbreaking style. The tradition continues in Metro Sports.