sidney crosby I had never been to someone else’s Stanley Cup party. So when he helped his fellow Nova Scotian and good friend Nathan Mackinnon celebrate this summer, Crosby blurted out. As he recently joked, Crosby was the “fifth drunkest person there.”
Are we looking at a relaxed Crosby entering his 18th year? NHL season?
“It’s been as intense as ever lately,” said MacKinnon, who has long trained with Crosby over the summer break.
That intensity was on display Monday morning at the penguins‘ practice facility, where Crosby led drills while setting a furious pace during one of the last informal player workouts before training camp begins Thursday.
A few hours later, though, we saw Crosby relaxed again: smiling as he stopped at a suburban Pittsburgh home to deliver a special package to Penguins season-ticket holders. He posed for a photo to help the oldest son in the family, the captain of his high school club, invite a girl to the homecoming party (She said yes). Crosby later clutched a makeshift home drawing showing his number 87 from the family’s youngest daughter. After a few signed autographs and photos, she left to deliver another package to another family.
Intense, then relaxed.
On Tuesday, Crosby worked on a different version of dueling vibes. Again, his day would begin by leading one of the informal player workouts at the UPMC Lemieux sports complex. Subsequently, he was the main attraction at an annual golf outing with the team’s advertisers. That meant putting aside the competitive side of him at least a little bit, he says he wants to be good at golf, to do the honors with the sponsors.
Intense, then relaxed. Even conciliatory.
Perhaps this is the last version of Crosby, whose importance to the Penguins remains unmatched after all these years. He remains her greatest asset on and off the ice, a steward of the organization, a leader highly regarded by everyone who cashes a Fenway Sports Group check. Even prospects hoping to play Crosby, like winger nathan legacylook at how special Crosby is from afar.
“Sidney Crosby sets the bar pretty high,” Legare said. “All anyone has to do is shop at the same address. I think when you see the best player working 100 percent every day, you wake up and want to do the same. He’s the best in the league and he’s the best example you can have.”
Penguins management kept Crosby informed during offseason negotiations with his longtime teammates and dear friends. Yevgeny Malkin Y kris letang this summer. Crosby referred to his involvement in those negotiations Monday, saying he “tried to keep up with everything” and added, “I don’t want to upset the guys.”
Still, Penguins and NHL sources reaffirmed the athletic that crosby made his feelings known told management that his wish was for “Geno and Tanger to stay,” and also that Crosby visited Malkin at his home in Miami to “see how his friend was doing when talks weren’t going well,” a league source said.
All went well. The Big Three of the Penguins are together. General manager Ron Hextall chose to bring back the so-called sideline (with some new additions on defense) to try for another shot at a fourth Stanley Cup title that has eluded Crosby since his consecutive championship/Conn Smythe outburst in 2016 and 2017.
Crosby snuck a World Cup player/Most Outstanding Player among those Cup runs with the Penguins to cement his place as the unquestioned player of his generation. He was in his twenties then. He is now 35 years old and is no longer a consensual choice as the best hockey player in the world, or even the most in-demand.
He participated, as he always does if he’s healthy, at the NHL’s annual media summit last week in Las Vegas. However, he was not the sun around which the event revolved. In fact, Crosby was able to avoid speaking to national print and online reporters, leaving that task to the likes of Mr. avalancheis MacKinnon, the oilers‘ Connor McDavid and others. And when those others were polled on who is the best player in the game, Crosby was not selected; in fact, only one player selected him as the second best player in the NHL.
For Crosby to even be in the conversation between the best after 17 grueling seasons it is a testament to his talent, drive and historic greatness. On the other hand, he remains fiercely proud, and former Penguins teammate Ryan Malone surmised that Crosby listens when people say that the elite among a younger generation, led by McDavid, MacKinnon and the Maple Leafs‘ auston matthews – They’re over it.
“I promise you he doesn’t think so,” Malone said.
Neither does MacKinnon, the NHL player outside of Pittsburgh who knows Crosby best. During his Cup day and also his training sessions, MacKinnon picked up a freshness for Crosby.
“I think he’s in a new chapter of his career,” MacKinnon said. “He wants to play as long as he can at an elite level and that’s the new challenge for him…which is great.
“Sid had such an amazing season last year that maybe he should have been there for MVP as well. Obviously the points and stuff weren’t that high, but everything he brings to the game, everything, I don’t think there’s another guy I want on my team.”
The good people of Pittsburgh need not worry. Crosby has three years left on his current contract. He said the athletic one Josh Yohe wants to play another six seasons and has publicly stated that he wants to retire with the Penguins.
As proved last summer, Crosby’s wishes are in command of the Penguins.
What else does Crosby want? Well, at MacKinnon’s party, Crosby couldn’t help but notice something missing from his life.
“It just brings back memories,” he said of the visit with Lord Stanley’s silver goblet. “The parties. The experiences. And everything you go through when you win.
“I think it’s a good reminder of how much it brings people together. You see (MacKinnon’s) family and friends and, you know, the people that are a part of them… when you’re on the other side of the party like that. And that was great to see.
“And that’s something that motivates you more to want to do it again.”
— AthleticSean Gentille contributed to this story
(Top photo: Charles LeClaire/USA Today)