WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Sidney Crosby departed Winnipeg eight years ago as a 17-year-old hockey prodigy.
Crosby made his return to Winnipeg on Thursday as a 25-year-old with a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold medal, and 224 goals so far as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
When he was last in Winnipeg in December 2004, he participated in Canada's preparations for the 2005 World Junior Championship that was held in nearby Grand Forks, N.D. Crosby and his teammates also spent time in the tiny hamlet of Gimli, located an hour north of Winnipeg.
"I have great memories," Crosby said in remembering the experience that prepared him and his teammates for a gold medal in the ensuing tournament. "I remember the crowd for just an exhibition game."
But one thing has not changed during that span -- Winnipeg's infamous cold weather that included an overnight snowfall and temperatures this week that have been the city's coldest so far this winter -- and that climate immediately reintroduced itself to Crosby on his short walk to MTS Centre for the club's morning skate prior to playing the Winnipeg Jets.
"I haven't really been exposed to a Canadian winter in a long time," Crosby said to a pack of reporters that crowded the Pittsburgh dressing room after the morning skate. "It was fun to wake up to that. I just wanted to get outside and experience a Canadian winter."
Crosby enters the contest with a goal and two assists in his first three games. In returning to Winnipeg, Crosby will have his first sample of MTS Centre in visiting colors. Winnipeg fans have developed a reputation around the NHL for tormenting visiting stars. Crosby figures to come in for some abuse from the very partisan crowd that will fill the building for what is said to be the hottest ticket in the city since the Jets' opening game in October 2011 that marked the League's return to Manitoba.
"It's all in good fun," Crosby said. "They come up with everything. It's funny because you never know. It's usually pretty original."
Besides, Crosby figures, if he can handle the crowds in Philadelphia and New York, he should be prepared for whatever Jets fans offer.
"I've played in Philadelphia so much," Crosby said to laughter, "that it probably has prepared me for anything."
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