Dube ex­cited to clash with idol Crosby

Flames rookie idol­ized Crosby grow­ing up and now he’s set to bat­tle his boy­hood hero

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - WES GILBERT­SON wgilbert­[email protected]­media.com

That dogged de­ter­mi­na­tion, that abil­ity to dart in and out of traf­fic … that was ap­par­ently on dis­play long be­fore Dil­lon Dube earned a job with the Cal­gary Flames this fall.

Be­cause on this day, an atom-aged Dube wasn’t the only kid an­gling for an au­to­graph from Pitts­burgh Pen­guins su­per­star Sid­ney Crosby.

“Prob­a­bly when I was 10 years old, I went to one of their pre-game skates and he signed my jer­sey,” Dube re­called. “We were just in the crowd, there were prob­a­bly 200 peo­ple, and luck­ily enough, I fought my way in there and got it signed.

“I was just such a big fan of his, so I was pretty pumped.”

A rookie cam­paign is al­ways packed with pinch-me mo­ments, and Thurs­day brings an­other ‘holy smokes’ sort of night for the 20-year-old Dube.

Anx­ious to re­bound af­ter an em­bar­rass­ing ef­fort against the Cana­di­ens in Mon­treal, the Flames open a two-game home­s­tand when they wel­come Crosby and the Pen­guins to the Sad­dle­dome (7 p.m., Sport­snet West/Sport­snet 960 The Fan).

In his cur­rent role as Cal­gary’s fourth-line left winger, Dube isn’t ex­pect­ing to log a lot of ice time against the cen­tre-of-at­ten­tion in No. 87, but just shar­ing the stage with his child­hood favourite will be some­thing spe­cial.

“It’s go­ing to be re­ally cool,” Dube said. “You know, I can’t say I’ve been look­ing for­ward to that my whole life, be­cause I didn’t know if I’d be in this sit­u­a­tion, but it’s go­ing to be cool to be out there. Ever since he en­tered the league, I have his rookie card, I’ve al­ways looked up to him, and I still think he’s the best player.

“It’s go­ing to be ex­cit­ing. Ob­vi­ously, with the matchups and ev­ery­thing, I prob­a­bly won’t get a chance to play against him, but it’ll just be cool to ob­serve him and watch him and just see how he works out there.”

Re­al­iz­ing a rookie can’t get caught watch­ing a guy like Crosby, Dube added: “In warm-ups, maybe I’ll look across … I know it’s dif­fer­ent, but on TV, I’ve watched him enough. I’ve seen him work enough that it’s just go­ing to be an­other game for me.”

As Tues­day night turned to Wednes­day morn­ing, the en­tire hockey world was watch­ing — and re-watch­ing, and watch­ing again — the jaw-drop­ping re­play of Crosby’s game-win­ner in a 6-5 over­time tri­umph against the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers in Al­berta’s cap­i­tal city.

The way he dipsy-doo­dled around Ryan Strome, evaded the long stick of Dar­nell Nurse and then tucked a back­han­der be­hind Cam Tal­bot, it ranks as one of the most mes­mer­iz­ing mark­ers of his ca­reer.

That’s re­ally say­ing some­thing for a guy who has 400-plus goals to choose from.

(As a bonus for the Flames, it bumped down the footage of their cringe­wor­thy work against the Habs to a lit­tle later in the high­light shows.)

Like Dube, many of the NHL’s new­est ar­rivals idol­ized Crosby as kids.

They ’ve watched him cap­tain the Pen­guins to three Stan­ley Cup pa­rades, twice lead Team Canada to gold at the Win­ter Olympics, and etch his name on just about ev­ery piece of in­di­vid­ual hard­ware that you can think of.

And it’s not only that.

“It’s just the way he is, how classy he is,” Dube said. “I mean, that guy hasn’t had a mess-up in ev­ery year he’s played hockey. That goes off the ice, on the ice. He rarely makes mis­takes be­cause he al­ways puts him­self in the right po­si­tion. He’s flashy when he needs to be, but he just plays the way — on and off the ice — that ev­ery kid looks up to.

“And I’ve heard that about him, too, that he just car­ries him­self like he’s Sid­ney Crosby.”

Dube harkens back to that sig­na­ture-seek­ing mis­sion as a starstruck atom.

Turns out, he prob­a­bly didn’t need to squirm through the crowd that day. It seemed that Sid was will­ing to stick around un­til he had au­to­graphed an item for every­one.

“I think he took about an hour, just be­cause he was in a Cana­dian mar­ket, to sign peo­ple’s jerseys,” Dube re­called.

“He could have eas­ily just walked onto the bus and left. So that was pretty spe­cial to see. Ever since then, I just knew how classy of a guy he was.”

Dube still has the ev­i­dence at home in Cochrane, although he joked that his mother Suzy — also a big fan of the Pen­guins’ mar­quee man — might be tempted to wear the au­to­graphed sweater on Thurs­day.

“It’s the only jer­sey I have. I was never a big col­lec­tor or any­thing, never re­ally a big fan of any team,” Dube said. “I never wore it af­ter. I just let it hang in the closet, so it’s a col­lec­tor one day.

“Be­cause no mat­ter how many years I play here, you have to re­spect him for be­ing the best in the world. For a long time, he’ll be rec­og­nized as that.

“You re­spect him a lot for what he’s done.”

I have his rookie card, I’ve al­ways looked up to him, and I still think he’s the best player. It’s go­ing to be ex­cit­ing.

AL CHAREST

Flames rookie Dil­lon Dube says he plans to sneak a peek at his child­hood hero Sid­ney Crosby across the ice dur­ing warm-ups.

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