Wild Insider: New star is old school

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 4, 2007 - 11:30 PM

Sidney Crosby is only 20 years old, but he uses a wooden blade and relies on old-fashioned work ethic to improve his game.

Oftentimes when the Wild meets an opponent, I'll roam the locker rooms and gather note after note by chatting it up with players, coaches and managers.

Oftentimes, not everything fits into the newspaper, so I'll hold things for the next time the teams meet.

But since I have no clue when the next time the Wild and Pittsburgh Penguins will meet, I figured I'd clean out the notebook from last week's Pittsburgh visit:

Tired of 20-year-old phenom Sidney Crosby? Believe it or not, I trimmed that monstrous 55-inch Sidney Crosby feature in Tuesday's newspaper. A few items on the cutting room floor?

In this day and age of one-piece composite sticks, Crosby uses a wooden blade. He's not a dinosaur like the Wild's Pavol Demitra, who is one of 17 skaters in the entire league who uses an all-wood stick. Crosby uses a graphite shaft with a wooden blade.

And ... no curve. He uses a completely straight blade.

"I just like the feel," said Crosby, who had four points against the Wild. "I'm old-school, I guess. I don't like to change things, and I love to feel the puck on a wood blade. It probably hurts my shot a bit because I can't get as much on it. But I'm willing to sacrifice that for the backhand and to be more accurate passing."

Also, remember how great players such as Magic Johnson used to take the offseason and improve something about his game, like free-throw shooting or three-pointers?

Crosby was atrocious in the faceoff circle his first two years, winning under 50 percent of his draws. In 11 games this season, he has won 55.1 percent, including a career-high 19 faceoffs in a recent game vs. Montreal. He won 15 of 22 against Minnesota.

"It's something I wasn't happy with, so it's something I've been working on," Crosby said. "Slowly, but surely I'm getting better."

Penguins General Manager Ray Shero only lived in Minnesota until he was 4 but considers himself a Minnesotan.

Shero was born in St. Paul and lived in White Bear Lake when his father, the late Fred Shero, was coaching the former International Hockey League's St. Paul Saints and former Central Pro Hockey League's St. Paul Rangers in the early-to-mid 1960s. Fred Shero, a legendary NHL coach who led the Philadelphia Flyers to their only Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975, coached the Saints to two Turner Cups and the Rangers to two Adams Cups.

"I still remember skating at the old rink and skating at this pond down the street from our house," Ray Shero said, laughing. "I remember shuffling around and cutting my head open to get stitches. I remember listening to the games on radio, and I remember one of my dad's players gave us a pet duck.

"So instead of a dog, we had a duck."

Fred Shero also played for the USHL Saints in the 1940s. Ray said he loves coming to Minnesota because Lou Cotroneo, 77, a former Saints stickboy who works in the Wild press box, always tells him stories about his dad, who died of stomach cancer in 1990.

"When my mom and dad got married, this is where they first set up shop," Shero said. "We have all kind of scrapbooks from here. My dad always talked fondly of being here and coaching here. I was young, but I still remember."

  • WILD WEEK IN REVIEW Record: 0-3-0 (with a game Saturday vs. Calgary). • The Wild, winless in five games (0-4-1) before Saturday’s 4-1 victory at Calgary, lost three in a row in regulation for the first time since November 2006. In a 3-1 loss at Colorado on Sunday, the Wild lacked the firepower and made too many mistakes (penalties, turnovers). Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Ryan Malone combined for nine points in Tuesday’s 4-2 Pittsburgh victory. STAR TRIBUNE'S STAR OF THE WEEK: James Sheppard, center As advertised, the more you watch him, the more you like him. The rookie is deceptively fast, makes smart plays down low and is strong enough to skate through traffic. He looks like the real deal, but be patient for the dominant brand of hockey he should provide in the future. THIS WEEK: One game Monday: vs. Edmonton, 7 p.m. • A busy week for the Wild is followed by a light week, which could be good and bad. Good? The slumping Wild probably need a little R&R, coupled with a mini-training camp to shore up the many holes in its game. Bad? The five days off will give other teams ample chance to catch the Wild. MICHAEL RUSSO
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