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Sports Jabber Biography: Sidney Crosby

Jabber HeadSenior Analyst IApril 16, 2009

In the beginning

Sidney Patrick Crosby was born on August 7th, 1987 in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. Parents Troy and Tina Crosby of Cole Harbour, and one younger sister make up his family.

Troy Crosby played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and was even drafted to the Montreal Canadians in 1984, but never had the opportunity to play at the professional level. Troy moved on and got involved in a Halifax law firm, where he started working as a facilities manager. Tina worked at a grocery store in Cole Harbour.

Troy, like most Canadian fathers, engaged in hockey type activities with young Sidney. “From the time he was a little kid; he picked up the stick and held it like he was going to shoot.” And shoot he did.  In the basement, he began shooting pucks against his dryer.

“We had to replace it,” his father said (of the dryer), “It’s in one of those storage places, beige dryer with black dots all over it where all those pucks his it.”

Sidney also picked up skating very naturally; “When he started to skate at 3, you could tell he was going to be a good.  He was never on his ankles, and his skates were always straightaway.”

His father has been quoted on Sidney, saying, “One of the first times he was on the ice, the other kids were wobbling around but he was shooting the puck off the boards.”

Sidney picked up on his fathers’ love of the game and watched Montreal games with his dad, while he was growing up. The Canadians were actually his favorite team at the time; wonder what he would say these days?

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“I’d buy hockey videos, like ‘Gretzky’s Greatest Goals,’ and he’d watch it over and over,” his father said.

“When he was 6, he was playing against 10-year-olds. He was always younger than the other kids and always the smallest kid, but I always told him it’s better to be small and good because if you’re big and good, they will always say you’re good because you’re big.”

Sidney was put into hockey at the earliest levels. Hockey, unlike most sports, can get quite costly. You don’t need a pair of shoes and a ball, or bat or catcher’s glove to be good to go. Sticks are frequently broken and need to be replaced.

Other gear like shoulder pads, shin pads, skates, etc. can be quite expensive. Not to mention the travel, the 6am morning practices, and it taking dedication by both the parent and child to stay involved.

“I definitely remember they had to take on an extra job just so I could keep playing hockey” Crosby said of his parents. Troy Crosby said such sacrifices weren’t made in hopes of yielding a first overall draft position.

Instead, they were sacrifices made to ensure that their son was never denied the opportunity to fulfill his potential.

The Journey

Crosby didn’t always wear No. 87, a reflection of his birthday, but even just starting out he was half way their. At the age of 5, wearing No. 8, Sidney played for Cole Harbour Timbits Hockey, sponsored by Tim Horton’s.

Tim Horton’s is a Canadian food and beverage restaurant known for its coffee and doughnuts. The Timbits Hockey philosophy is “The first goal is having fun.” Something that seems to remain to this day in Sidney.

Sidney was coached by Paul Gallagher during his Timbits days. “As soon as I saw him, I went to the organizers and asked ‘are you sure he’s only five? I’ve never seen a five-year-old skate like that.”

Of course score isn’t kept during those types of games, while most of the focus is on teaching the very basic and just hoping that kids can take something you teach with them.

But living in a very small town, Gallagher was bound to run into Crosby again, and he did. In 2000 – 2001 Gallagher coached Crosby’s Bantam AAA team. In 63 games with the Cole Harbour Red Wings, Sidney scored 86 goals and had 96 assists for a total of 182 points in only 63 games.

The following year with the Midget AAA Dartmouth Subways, Crosby scored 95 times, with 98 assists, in only 74 games. He won the Midget AAA National Championship MVP and the Midget AAA National Championship Top Scorer Award.

It was clear that Crosby had potential, and to get the most out of his skill , he attended Shattuck St. Mary’s.

Shattuck St. Mary’s (also known as SSM) is an Episcopal Church—affiliated boarding school in Farbault, Minnesota. It is known for its Centers of Excellence in hockey, soccer, and figure skating.

SSM has an impressive list of current NHL players who once attended there. Players such as Ty Conklin, Patrick Eaves, Joe Corvo, Ryan Malone, Kyle Okposo, Zach Parise, Drew Stafford, and Jonathan Towes.

While at SSM, Crosby netted 72 goals while getting 90 helpers in 57 games. He only stayed at SSM during the 2002 – 2003 season.

The next stop was the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he was drafted to the Rimouski Oceanic. The QMJHL would all bear witness to the greatness that was Sidney Crosby.

He finished his rookie season with 54 goals and 81 assists, for 135 points. To show how good that is, he finished his rookie season ranked first in goals, assists, and points. If you didn’t know who Crosby was at the start of the season in 2003, you certainly knew him by the end of  2004.

If not from his impressive QMJHL season, then perhaps you would have seen him in the World Juniors. His first time around, he had two goals and three assists in five games. Crosby, 16, became the youngest player to score a goal in the history of the tournament. Canada won Silver that year, which apparently caught the interest of the WHA.

In August of 2004, Crosby shocked a lot of people when he turned down a $7.5 million contract over three years to play in the WHA. He turned down the offer, claiming he was not ready to leave the junior league, yet.

The maturity a 17 year old has to possess to turn down 7.5 million dollars, coming from a family who could never have dreamed of having that type of money, is simply amazing.

In 2005 Crosby participated in the World Juniors again. This time, he had six goals and three assists in six games. This time, Canada earned the gold.

During his second season with the Oceanic, Sidney finished first again in goals (66), Assists (102), and points (168). He also made a huge decision to enter the NHL draft. If he wanted, he could have stayed in the QMJHL until he was 21.

But even in just two short seasons, Sidney had collected his fair share of awards from the league, including Rookie of the year, All–Rookie Team, First All–Star Team, Most Valuable Player, League Leading Scorer, Best Professional Prospect, Personality of the Year, Playoff MVP, Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Offensive Player of the Year.

Sidney wasn’t only being awarded by the league, but also by arguably the game’s greatest player, Wayne Gretzky, who said that he thought Sidney Crosby could possibly break the records he set. Gretzky also gave Sidney the nickname “The Next One”.

For those who don’t know, Wayne Gretzky is known as “The Great One”, so for Gretzky to call Sidney “The Next One”, people were going to take notice.

It was no surprise to anyone when Sidney was drafted with the first pick in 2005 by the Pittsburgh Penguins. For a kid who had so much success and was an exciting player to watch, you would have though that the NHL universe would accept him with open arms, but that was not the case, as he faced his fair share of criticism right from the get–go.

Away from the Rink

Sometimes who you are on the ice reflects the type of person you are off the ice. So when you hear someone being compared to the greats, like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic, Bobby Orr, Steve Yzerman, etc.

And at the tender age of 17 being offered a 7.2 Million dollar contract, you would think you would see someone who was a bit stuck up and walked with some swagger.

But Crosby tries to keep himself grounded, and is usually the first on the ice and last to leave. Not because he needs the extra time, but because he loves the game and loves to be all that he can be.

“I think I realize I’m obviously in a bit of a special situation. I think a lot of people would like to be in my shoes so I try not to get frustrated with the attention” he said. “Definitely sometimes it gets hectic and busy but I realize I’m very fortunate. I don’t look down on it at all”

To have that type of grasp on things at a young age shows maturity beyond his years. This is a kid who’s had major success playing hockey, has offers for companies wanting him to be a spokesman, has a lucrative NHL contract waiting for him, and most of us would be all over the place.

Even in the days leading up to the draft, Crosby probably heard the same questions a million times, but he answered each with the same level of thoughtfulness. He never snapped, and never seemed to be either overwhelmed by the attention or bored.

It’s not because the media was on him and he wanted to look good in the eye of the country, but because that’s who he is.

It also didn’t hurt that during school his father encouraged him to do his presentations in front of the class with pride and courage, because he presented poorly in school, and he wanted his son to improve.

But what about when the cameras aren’t on Crosby? His former coach Gallagher had nothing but good stories about Sid the Kid. “His 10-year-old sister Taylor had a hockey practices at 7:30 a.m. and Sidney drove her to practices. People would surround him for his autograph and he would sign them, he’s a classy young man. That’s the type of guy he is,” said Gallagher

Another recalling story showed that even on the ice he thought of others before himself. “We had one kid who hadn’t scored a goal. Sidney was giving up sure goals trying to get him his goal. And he got it, too.”

The Bust?

Since about the 2001/2002 NHL season, up until the year Crosby was drafted, the Penguins were a bottom cellar team. But in 2005 they had the 1st round draft pick and it looked like one of the brightest prospects in a long time would be theirs for the taking.

The draft that year was known as the Sidney Crosby Lottery or the Sidney Crosby Sweepstakes, and Crosby didn’t have to wait around come draft day for his name to be called. Sid the Kid was heading to Pittsburgh.

The start to Crosby’s career wasn’t going as well as Pens fans hoped, with Penguins losing their first 13 games. Though Crosby didn’t mind as much, mainly because he was playing along side of his idol, Mario Lemieux.

Unfortunately for Crosby, playing along side his idol wouldn’t last long. On December 8th Mario Lemieux was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and was forced to retire.

Shortly after the Penguins fired head coach Ed Olczyk and replaced him with Michel Therrien, who moved Sidney from winger back to his original position of center. Therrien also made some key line up changes.

On December 16th, 2005 Michel Therrien named Sidney Crosby an Alternate Captain. Of course, the hockey world knew that eventually Sidney would be the Captain of the team anyways, but the proud tradition in hockey would not let this…kid become captain.

Therrien and Crosby were both questioned, but Therrien never backed down and allowed Sidney remain as an Alternate.

Don Cherry claimed that Crosby didn’t have the experience for the position, and stated “an 18 year old kid says he’s going to give us ideas. What from the Quebec Leagues, he’s going to give them ideas? Come on. That’s ridiculous.”

And if Don Cherry speaks, so it shall be done, or at least that seemed to be the way at the time.

Crosby was accused by opposing players and coaches of taking dives and complaining to officials, starting with Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators and backed up by Mathieu Dandenault of the Montreal Canadiens.

“That’s what I like about him,” Dandenault told Journal de Montréal reporter Pierre Durcoher after the Capitals game.

“Ovechkin isn’t afraid to fight back, instead of just complaining to the refs like Sidney Crosby does. I fully agreed with what Daniel Alfredsson said about Crosby. Sidney has to realize that he’s not playing in junior anymore. Dives don’t work in the NHL.”

Sidney finished his first season with 39 goals and 63 assists for 102 points. For a rookie of his age to come in and put up those numbers is amazing. But the lowly Penguins finished 22–46-14, not the start that Crosby or the fans hoped for.

Other then finishing dead last, Sidney was dealt another blow, by not being invited to play for Team Canada, by Wayne Gretzky. Even though he set a franchise record (held by Lemieux) for assists and points by a rookie, Wayne felt he wasn’t ready.

But at least putting up 102 points would mean he would walk away with the Calder Memorial Trophy (awarded to the rookie of the year.) Unfortunately for Crosby, a young Russian named Alex Ovechkin scored four more points that season (52G, 54A – 106pts) and was awarded the trophy.

In the run of a year, Crosby lost his playing beside his idol, dealt with the controversy, was passed over for the Olympics, his team had a last place finish, he was branded  a whiner, and he got beat out for the Calder Trophy.
What a year for an 18 year old.

Look forward, not backwards

The next season was much more of a success for Crosby and the Penguins. On a personal level, Crosby had beaten his first year point total, scoring 36 goals and 84 assists for a total of 120 points in 79 games.

He also won the Art Ross Trophy (awarded to the league point leader) and became the youngest player in NHL history to do so, also becoming the first teenager since Wayne Gretzky to lead the league in points.

Crosby also won the Hart Memorial Trophy (most Valuable to his team), and Lester B. Pearson Award (most outstanding player in the regular season as judged by the NHLPA).

Crosby became the youngest player to win the Lester B. and  the second youngest player to win the heart (after Gretzky).

But I’m sure much more important to Crosby was the fact that his team went from a last place team the year before to the fifth, clinching a playoff spot. Although they didn’t make it to the finals, the progression that this team made had to give Sid the Kid a big confidence boost.

Sidney had high NHL hopes in year three, but a high sprain kept him out for a good chunk of the season. In 53 games he scored 24 times and got 48 assists, but more importantly the Penguins improved their record again.

This time, they finished the season in second, going 47–27–8, and made it to the Stanley cup finals. The Penguins hadn’t managed to get to the finals since 1992. But in six games, the Penguins lost to the Detroit Red Wings.

At last we make it to 2008–2009 season, where the Penguins have already locked their playoff spot and will be going up against the New Jersey Devils. Crosby is 33G, 70A in 76 games, with one game remaining.

Will this be the year for Sid the Kid?

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