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Can Sidney Crosby save the NHL?


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May 09, 2005

Can Sidney Crosby save the NHL?

The can't-miss kid is just what the locked-out league needs, but his dazzling skills could be wasted in the pros

CHARLIE GILLIS

...

At 17, Crosby has been variously compared to Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic, Bobby Orr, Steve Yzerman and -- in one recent newspaper article -- Elvis Presley. The latter was presumably based on his ability to fill buildings, which he's been doing since his gold-medal performance in January at the world junior hockey championship. And there is an unmistakable air of teen idol about him, too, with flocks of adolescent girls appearing at his road games throughout Quebec, rushing the bench after practice and squealing as he skates by. You could forgive a kid for losing his focus.

...

This year, he put up numbers like no 17-year-old in the past two decades -- 168 points in 62 games -- posing the intriguing prospect of a player capable of lifting the game to new heights, the way Lemieux and Gretzky did in the 1980s and '90s. You need only look at the Oc?anic to see his effect. After a miserable, 11-win season in 2002-03, the team vaulted to the top of its division in 2003-04, Crosby's rookie year. This season, Rimouski's been practically unstoppable, averaging 4.76 goals a night and sailing into the third playoff round on a 35-game undefeated streak before finally losing a game last week to Chicoutimi. Crosby's linemates, Dany Roussin and Marc-Antoine Pouliot, finished second and third respectively in league scoring, while the Oc?anic are now hands-down favourites to represent the QMJHL later this month at junior hockey's national championship, the Memorial Cup, in London, Ont.

The question now is whether the NHL will get its act together in time to take advantage of his talents. He would undoubtedly cringe to hear it ("I'm just concentrating on making it to the next level"), but the issue will never be more timely. This spring, Crosby is eligible for the NHL entry draft and, if the lockout is settled before next season, he's a solid bet to spend most of 2005-06 in the league. At the same time, hockey's brain trust is engaged in the most searching re-examination of the sport since it embraced the forward pass back in the 1930s. Last month in Michigan, all 30 NHL general managers met with a handful of player representatives to discuss ideas aimed at generating goals, such as permitting two-line passes, trimming the size of goalie equipment and expanding the nets.

Crosby is not the sole cause of this review, of course. But his imminent debut adds to its sense of urgency. Will the NHL allow him to score, to make the gorgeous plays he's proven he can make? Or will it leave him to war with thuggish, grasping defenders in a creatively retarded game?

If this seems like a lot to heap on a teenager's shoulders, consider the stake Crosby himself has in the outcome. Less than two years ago, no less an authority than Gretzky anointed him most likely to match the Great One's records. In the blink of an eye he had become the Next One -- the best player, said Gretzky, "since Mario." It's the kind of prediction that can launch a career, or crush it, sending a player on a spiral of self-loathing for every night he falls short of brilliance. So far, Crosby's been holding up just fine. Last season, he became the first 16-year-old to win the Canadian Hockey League's scoring title, constructing passing plays that left scouts shaking their heads in disbelief. He was only the fifth 16-year-old to represent Canada at the world juniors, and in June -- if the selection of juniors hadn't been postponed -- he'd have been the hands-down first overall pick in a draft pool that scouts describe as the deepest in years.

But Crosby is not Gretzky, and herein lies a potential problem. Though short by NHL standards at five foot eleven and 195 lb., he revels in rough play, something neither Gretzky nor Lemieux managed to convincingly fake. It helps that he's built like an inukshuk -- thick and rock-hard through the torso with stumpy, wide-set legs. One scout who's followed Crosby since bantam marvels at his ability to make his plays after, not before, marauding checkers have given him their best shot. "When he gets across the blue line he kind of sets himself up as a tripod, with his skates apart and his stick down on the ice," explains Dennis MacInnis of the Antigonish, N.S.-based International Scouting Services. "Then he just lets his hockey sense and vision and playmaking skills take over. You can hit him all you want and you're not going to knock him down."

...

Today, as on most days, he is a walking advertisement. The black hoodie, the trainers and the cap he's wearing are all symbols of the reported five-year, multi-million-dollar endorsement agreement he recently signed with Reebok, the sportswear company. Without ever lacing up for a pro game, Sidney Crosby is rich. But his abundant poise helps explain the fortune Reebok and others have invested in his future. He punctuates sentences with reflexive smiles, a visible enthusiasm that makes him the most camera-warm hockey star since Orr. And he's plainly comfortable with the media's relentless dissection of his young life, something he's endured since doing his first interview at age 7. "It gets to be part of your routine," he says, "like putting your equipment on before practice."

...

What gets less attention is the gruelling exercise regime Crosby adopted in his early teens, strengthening his quadriceps, hamstrings and abdominal muscles while his friends were eating chips and playing video games. "Leg strength, speed and agility are going to help me most as a player," he explains matter-of-factly. "And balance. I have to be able to fight off bigger, stronger guys and at the same time stay fast. It's not always easy." His training obsession reflects his competitiveness: he routinely hits the ice 45 minutes before practice, he's usually the last to leave, and he puts in about 90 minutes a day, five days a week, at the gym. "He doesn't drink any pop, doesn't eat sugary stuff, doesn't stay out late, doesn't have time for a girlfriend," says Guy Boucher, an assistant coach with the Oc?anic. "He wants to win so bad he can't even play a game of cards for fun."

...

There are unspoken themes that run through most of Crosby's responses. He does not consider himself special. He accepts the sport as it is. He is a hockey talent, not a miracle worker. And yet the hope persists throughout the hockey community that he will transcend the game's flaws, and become the flagbearer for some sort of firewagon revival. Even as the lockout drags on, top officials with both the NHL and the players' association are talking up the need to return with a faster, cleaner product to win back fans. Both sides view the arrival of Crosby as pivotal to that strategy. "I know for a fact they want to capitalize on it," says Pat Brisson, Crosby's agent. "He's very articulate and well-spoken and the league has to take advantage of this. He can deliver a clear message for them."

...

IN THE MEANTIME, Crosby is making the most of his time in a league where he and his team reign supreme. Driving north through the sunlit streets of Rimouski, he appears less consumed by the goal drought in prohockey than by the challenge of getting a paintball game going among his teammates. Working his cellphone and consulting with Yannick Dumais, the team's PR man, who is riding in the back seat, he susses out potential venues, sighing at one operation's lamentable policy of closing on Sunday. On the dashboard is a dog-eared sticky note bearing a list of cryptic, badly outdated reminders: "Xmas gifts. Jersey. Meeting with woman." He'd left it there over the holidays, he explains, and it was still there on Jan. 7, the day Rimouski's unbeaten streak began. "I'm a little superstitious," he says. "So I didn't want to take it off. Now all the guys on the team know about it."

Brisson is fond of saying his client acts five years older than his age, and as pressure mounts on the young phenom to discuss his future, it's easy to see why. In recent days, speculation has arisen over what he'll do if the lockout destroys next season. Crosby has shucked off the questions with a response as honest as it is empty: he'll play in the best league he can, whether it's a European circuit, the American Hockey League or (if it ever gets off the ground) the World Hockey Association. Then, out of respect for his team, he quickly channels conversation back to the task at hand, namely winning the QMJHL playoffs and getting his club a berth in the Memorial Cup. "After that," he says, "will be the time to decide what I want to do with my future."

It's as if he's gratefully aware he's entered a special, fleeting phase of life -- a kind of golden age. He speaks wistfully of teammates he'll soon leave behind, and of Rimouski, a city that welcomed him with open arms. "After this year a lot of the guys are going to go different ways," he says over lunch, glancing out the window, "so we just try to take advantage of all the time we can to hang out." It sounds a bit odd coming from a 17-year-old who, if all goes as planned, has huge fortune, international fame and his best playing years ahead of him. But Crosby has a reputation for making the most of his surroundings, and bringing fun to the game wherever he plays.

Under the circumstances, the NHL's task doesn't seem so hard: settle the lockout, open the doors and, for the sake of its long-suffering fans, let this kid show his stuff.

http://my.yahoo.com/rogers_y_frame.php?mh=...9_105149_105149

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Wow, I severly cut that article down to size too. Click the link for the full thing (if that wasn't enough)...

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He's amazing..I've seen him play...but when and how is he ever going to get drafted? They can't even agree on an order for a draft when and if they ever hold one.

Whoever picks first gets a diamond though.

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Interesting.. Whats his stats?

585874269[/snapback]

17 years old, 168 points in 62 games, 5'11", built like a truck

more importantly his team was pathetic prior to his rookie season

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Thanks Fred..

Found from Wikipedia:

                                   Regular Season      Playoffs
Season  Team  League                    GP  G  A  Pts  PIM  GP  G  A  Pts PIM
2001-02    Dartmouth Subways      MAAA  74  95  98  193  114  7  11  13  24  0
2002-03    Shattuck St. Mary's    USHS  57  72  90  162  104  -  -  -  -  -
2003-04    Rimouski Oceanic      QMJHL  59  54  81  135  74  9  7  9  16  10
2004-05    Rimouski Oceanic      QMJHL  62  66  102  168  84  -  -  -  -  -

Damn, he must be really good.. :o

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London Knights will show him and his team who's boss this year at Memorial Cup; just you wait and see :p

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nice to see a homelander that might be able to make a difference. As far as I know he was drafted, but the season was locked out after that so he hasn't got to play yet.. Of course I get sport stories twisted so I could be confused.

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nice to see a homelander that might be able to make a difference.  As far as I know he was drafted, but the season was locked out after that so he hasn't got to play yet.. Of course I get sport stories twisted so I could be confused.

585874332[/snapback]

No..he definitely wasn't drafted yet..he wasn't old enough last year, and they aren't scheduled to have a draft this year.

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Damn, he must be really good..  :o

585874313[/snapback]

That's probably an understatement.

He's so good the Atlanta Thrashers (I believe it was them) tried to draft him last year when he wasn't even eligible... then they tried to argue that he would be eligible with leap years or something like that.

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That's probably an understatement.

He's so good the Atlanta Thrashers (I believe it was them) tried to draft him last year when he wasn't even eligible... then they tried to argue that he would be eligible with leap years or something like that.

585875880[/snapback]

lol leap years?

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If I remember it right, he was a few days away from being eligible or something, and they said that with the day or days from a leap year added he would be.

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That was the Florida Panthers...and it was Alexander Ovechkin in 2003, not Crosby...but it's a good story anyway =)

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NO NO NO NO NO.

Sydney Crosby will not and can not save the NHL, hes not going to be the next wayne grezktey and he won't be the next Super Mario or Steve Y. Look i am canadian and i know a sh*t load about hockey, i've seen this kid play and let me tell you the 6'5 defensemen in the NHL will crunch this kid. He won't save the NHL but i do believe the nhl will start next season, and i believe they will combine this 04-05 draft with the 05-06 draft thus meaning there will be crap loads of players that will save the NHL not only Sydney Crosby.

1. Sydney Crosby

2. Phil Kessel

3. Gilbert Brule

4. Some slovenian all-star, a young kid, he is compared to Crosby

Then of course the drafted players.

1. Rob Shremp

2. Ovechkin

3. Malkin

The NHL is going to have lots of up coming stars, but if they can save the NHL i don't think so, the NHL and the NHLPA need to frickan meet and start meeting non stop until we get our hockey back.

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That was the Florida Panthers...and it was Alexander Ovechkin in 2003, not Crosby...but it's a good story anyway =)

585876282[/snapback]

Ah, my fault. I knew it was one of the two -- I wasn't positive.

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