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Crosby eyes Olympics as he soaks up knowledge

Monday, 08.24.2009 / 8:54 PM / All-Access Vancouver

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

CALGARY -- Wherever he goes, Sidney Crosby always is one of the most talked about and noticed athletes. Crosby's just 22, but people look to him to take charge on the ice and bear the brunt of the responsibility off it.

Perhaps not this week though.

This week at the Pengrowth Saddledome, Crosby is as close to being "just another player" as he has ever been before, albeit one considered by many to be a lock to make the Canadian Olympic squad barring a catastrophic development.

Even among Canada's galaxy of stars, many believe Crosby could be Team Canada's captain, though even coach Mike Babcock said Scott Niedermayer looks like a pretty good choice, too.

Crosby has never been around as much talent and experience as he is in Calgary this week, so the Pittsburgh Penguins' captain, the youngest to ever lift the Stanley Cup, has one goal in mind -- learn.

"I'll try to be a sponge here and take whatever I can back to Pittsburgh," Crosby said Monday night before taking the ice for the first time. "I'm going to try to be better for it.

"Whether it's the players or the coaching staff, you look at the group and these are experienced guys and winners," Crosby said. "As a player you're always finding ways to be better and you couldn't be surrounded by a group of better people and players to learn from."

Even Crosby has to understand that for him not to be in Vancouver in February he will have to either be injured or slumping pretty badly. Heck, Steve Yzerman, Team Canada's executive director, basically confirmed Crosby's invite during his press conference Monday.

"The important thing about having the camp is guys like Sidney can get to meet the Jarome's (Iginla) and get more familiar with them," Yzerman said, "so when they get in that locker room in Vancouver they'll be very comfortable and they're not meeting their teammates for the first time."

Crosby, though, won't take anything for granted, saying it would be a "huge honor and a once in a lifetime experience to be in the Olympics in your own country. It's something I'd love to be a part of."

Crosby didn't make it to the 2006 Olympics in Torino even though many people now wonder if he could have helped save Canada from it's ultimate demise of a seventh-place finish. He was under consideration for that squad, but ultimately not selected.

Crosby never even considered himself a candidate for that team. He was just 18, in the midst of his rookie season. The Olympics seemed like a far away dream.

"I was still just so concerned about starting well and I wanted to make sure I proved myself early on," Crosby said. "Never in a million years did I think my name would be considered, so when it came up it was great, but I had no expectations. When I wasn't there, it wasn't a huge shock. I was still really young and still had a lot to prove."

And, now?

Suffice it to say that Crosby has been thinking about the Vancouver Games ever since the Torino Games finished. His confidence was buoyed by the fact he would have four and a half seasons of NHL experience behind him come 2010.

"Sure, it is something that has always been in the back of my mind," Crosby said. "When I think about it, you always say 'It's so far away, 2010,' but we're getting closer and closer and it's amazing to see how things have flown by. It's more realistic and something I really want to make the most of the opportunity."

"Whether it's the players or the coaching staff, you look at the group and these are experienced guys and winners. As a player you're always finding ways to be better and you couldn't be surrounded by a group of better people and players to learn from."
-- Sidney Crosby

Crosby's career is flying by, but in the process he's knocking things off his check list one by one. Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Award, Stanley Cup. Check, check, check, check.

Naturally, the next thing on his check list would be an Olympic gold medal.

"There is lots to think about before that," Crosby said, "but it's all a process and for the most part it starts right here."

Here, in a place where he's just another luminary in a field of superstars.

"The spotlight has been on him his entire life," Yzerman said. "I think he's used to that. He'll be an important part."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com