CROSBY AT 30

AMONG THE GREATS,

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - KEITH DOUCETTE HAL­I­FAX —

As he turns 30 on Mon­day, Sid­ney Crosby will cel­e­brate his third Stan­ley Cup win parad­ing the cher­ished mug through the streets of the city where he’s been a star since he was five years old.

The Pitts­burgh Pen­guins cap­tain will take in the fes­tiv­i­ties know­ing that af­ter 12 years in the NHL, his place is al­ready as­sured in the pan­theon of the game’s greats and that he has ful­filled the prom­ise that many saw in him from al­most the first time he laced up a pair of skates.

In the tra­di­tion of Orr, Gret­zky, Lemieux and now Con­nor McDavid, “Sid the Kid,” was a hockey prodigy.

“He was not only the best player I ever saw, but sig­nif­i­cantly the best player,” said Brian New­ton, a re­tired lawyer who coached a seven-year-old Crosby as a high­scor­ing cen­tre on Cole Har­bour’s Novice AAA Wings.

In a re­cent in­ter­view, New­ton re­called his first brush with a five-year-old Crosby — it came af­ter get­ting a phone call from Sid­ney’s father Troy.

New­ton said the hockey sea­son was about a month old when Troy Crosby asked that his son, who was play­ing Tim­bits hockey at the time, be moved up to play with the six-year-old group.

Know­ing how some par­ents can be, New­ton said he agreed to see whether the move should be made, but he asked Troy not to de­scribe his son.

“I said ‘Well no, if he’s this good a player I’ll be able to pick him out,’” said New­ton.

New­ton said shortly af­ter the con­ver­sa­tion he went to a Cole Har­bour rink one Satur­day morn­ing.

“I just kind of hid my­self from the par­ents and out th­ese guys came and he just stuck out like a sore thumb,” he re­called. “It was just amaz­ing — I’d never seen any­one with that skill level at five years of age.”

New­ton said he was “amazed” to watch the young Crosby con­trol the puck as a gag­gle of tiny play­ers fran­ti­cally tried to get it away from him.

Crosby was moved up with the six-year-olds and the next year he started play­ing rep, a level re­served for the best play­ers in each age group.

New­ton said at six and seven years of age, Crosby’s phys­i­cal skills were clearly rec­og­niz­able — as were other traits that of­ten sep­a­rate the great ones.

“He not only had the phys­i­cal skills, but when I looked at him he had that in­ner qual­ity, that de­sire, that drive and that fol­lowed Sid­ney right through mi­nor hockey,” he said.

There was also a “quiet con­fi­dence” New­ton noted, that en­abled him to pos­sess the puck in the face of play­ers who were of­ten one to two years older than he was.

A trace of the trait was ev­i­dent in one of Crosby’s very first me­dia in­ter­views.

“They say you have to do your best and work hard and things will hap­pen,” he told the Hal­i­fax Daily News in a fea­ture writ­ten in April 1995 when Crosby was seven. “You can make it if you try.” Crosby’s mi­nor hockey dom­i­nance con­tin­ued into pee­wee, where he an­nounced his ar­rival on a much big­ger stage, the Que­bec In­ter­na­tional Pee­wee Tour­na­ment.

His coach then and cur­rent fam­ily friend, Paul Ma­son, said go­ing into the tour­na­ment the me­dia hype sur­rounded a lo­cal boy as the next “must-see” player.

That all changed af­ter Crosby scored six goals and four as­sists for Cole Har­bour in his first tour­na­ment game.

“We com­pared him against the best in the world and he was the best,” said Ma­son. “You knew at that point that you had some­one here that was pretty spe­cial.”

Ma­son said there were times he and the other coaches re­al­ized the best thing to do was to sit back and watch.

“Some­times you would just sit back and go, ‘Oh my God,’ and just look at each other — did he re­ally do that?” said Ma­son. “There were sev­eral times that you did that dur­ing the year — he was that good.”

For­mer CBC sports broad­caster Bruce Rain­nie first heard the buzz about a young Crosby in 1995 and af­ter ini­tial skep­ti­cism, fi­nally de­cided to check him out at the urg­ing of le­gendary Hal­i­fax sports writer Pat Con­nolly.

Rain­nie said an un­der­sized Crosby recorded nine goals and two as­sists in a 13-9 Cole Har­bour win over Shear­wa­ter.

“I thought if he de­vel­ops into any sort of av­er­age to larger-sized ath­lete, this is go­ing to be an NHL leg­end,” Rain­nie re­calls. “And it was ob­vi­ous from, hon­estly, the age of eight.”

Through it all he’s re­mained very much the home­town boy. It’s some­thing that’s en­deared him to his fans and to those with a per­sonal con­nec­tion.

“Fame and for­tune I don’t think have re­ally changed him very much at all,” said New­ton. “Ev­ery­body in Cole Har­bour, they re­spect him so much be­cause he al­ways comes home, he’s al­ways down to earth, he’s run­ning his hockey school here and he’s still part of our com­mu­nity.”

GENE J. PUSKAR, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sid­ney Crosby re­mains a home­town boy; ac­ces­si­ble, mod­est, well grounded, say those that know him.

PAUL CHI­AS­SON, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Sid­ney Crosby in 2004.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.