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Continued: Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby: Quite a kid, quite a star

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Last update: October 29, 2007 - 9:16 PM

"This is just a different world, and Sid accepts it as part of his job because he wants to promote this team and this sport," McMillan said.

Frank Buonomo, the Penguins' senor director of team services and media relations, handles Crosby's schedule.

"It's just a matter of filtering through the many requests to see what maximizes our organization, the NHL and Sidney," Buonomo said. "There's something every day and we try to help everybody, but there's no way we can do everything. His job is still to play hockey, but at this level, you couldn't work with a guy more cooperative."

Said Crosby, "I'd never complain about the attention -- ever. I feel very fortunate to be doing what I love to do. Not everyone gets that chance every day. This is just part of it, and it comes down to managing my time to make sure I concentrate on my passion, which is the hockey, and have time away from hockey."

'Best player in the game'

Crosby has an unusual combination of skill, strength, speed and determination. He has a great shot, uncanny vision and has no problem cutting through the middle and playing in traffic.

"When I see an opening, see a chance, I try to react and sometimes just trust my instincts," Crosby said. "People think it works all the time, but sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes I get hit, sometimes I lose the puck. Those are, I guess, judgment calls. But sometimes, it works and it's nice when they do."

Crosby is being humble. It often works for him. Just look at the dozens of Crosby highlights that roam the Internet. He attacks the blue line as if he's a running back penetrating the line of scrimmage.

"If he gets you on an angle, you're not stopping him," said Rick Dudley, now assistant general manager in Chicago after being the GM in Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Florida. "He's so powerful, when he drives inside, you're not going to be able to stop him.

"I think he's the best player in the game. He single-handedly could affect a game more than any other player."

Luckily for Crosby, though, he has lots of help. He's surrounded by a young nucleus in Jordan Staal, 19, Evgeni Malkin, 21, Marc-Andre Fleury, 22, and Ryan Whitney, 24, a group that helped the Penguins to a 47-victory, 105-point season in 2006-07 for their first playoff berth since 2001.

Pittsburgh lost to Ottawa in five games in the first round, but Crosby said he believes the experience will make all the difference this season.

"I feel really fortunate, and I think we all do as a group of young guys getting to grow together," Crosby said. "It definitely helped us going through our first playoff last year. It wasn't a long series by any stretch, but just to get that feel and be part of that atmosphere and to see how hard it is to win, and how you have to raise your game, it's good to realize that.

"But I think you can only say that so long. It's nice to always talk about the young core, the young core, but sooner or later, people are going to want results. Players want to see results, too."

Crosby, who still lives with Lemieux and his family, was named the Penguins' captain May 31 after turning down the captaincy twice last season, once during All-Star weekend. He said he wasn't ready, which arguably shows such maturity, it's probably proof he was ready.

This is a kid who had to be forbidden from attending optional skates last season by coach Michel Therrien. He's a guy who insisted on going into the Penguins' offices last year and personally thanking the sales team. On his own, he called Angelo Esposito, the 20th overall pick in June's draft, and welcomed him to the organization. He delivered season tickets to fans, with one excited woman, 30-year season-ticket holder Alice Kilgore, saying, "They said a Penguin. They didn't say Sidney Crosby."You know, I really didn't want [the captaincy] until I got through the whole playoff experience and also got to watch and learn from guys like [veteran Gary] Roberts," Crosby said. "Now being two full years with the guys, I have that comfort level, and it makes a difference."

The 'Kid' who saved Pittsburgh

The reality is Crosby came at the perfect time for the NHL. He and Washington's Alex Ovechkin were the fresh, new faces following a lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season. On July 22, 2005, an hour after the lockout ended, there was the Sidney Crosby Sweepstakes, or the moment the ping-pong ball fell right for the Penguins. (By the way, the Wild finished fourth in the Crosby Sweepstakes).

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