Sidney Crosby brought home the Stanley Cup.Tiny Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, isn't used to the kind of commotion that descended on the town in August, when native son
Sure, the residents were proud of Crosby for his on-ice achievements. But for some that have known him, they're just as proud for the kind of person he is off the ice.
"That's one thing we always say about Sid," Paul Mason told NHL.com. "We consider him a better person than he is a hockey player."
Mason would know, as Crosby credits him with being one of the most important people in shaping him into the person and player he is today.
Mason coached Crosby for two years in baseball and two years in hockey at the Cole Harbour Bel Ayr Minor Hockey Association.
"There're tons of kids that play baseball and tons of kids that don't play Major League Baseball or don't play in the National Hockey League, but there's a lot of lessons you can take through playing spots in general," Crosby told NHL.com. "I think he taught a lot of us those lessons, whether it be hard work or being accountable for your teammates. Those types of things go a long way, not just in your sport."
That's part of what Mason said youth sports should be about.
"We take minor sport as exactly what it is," he said. "It's not there to groom NHL hockey players, it's about growing up. We talk to them about respect -- respect for your opponent, respecting the opposition. Working for your teammates, strong or weak, doing what you can to make them feel like a strong contributors. We're very big on team; we're very big on being respectful to all parties. When you go to a rink leave it as clean or cleaner than when you got there. It's about being a better person than an athlete."
Learning those lessons are what made Crosby so proud to be able to bring the Cup to Cole Harbour for a celebration that included a visit to a Canadian naval ship and a children's hospital, and a parade through town.
"When you win the Cup you just immediately think about lifting it and being with the players, the parade and stuff," said Crosby. "You don't think about the aftereffects, too, of going through it and bringing it home and all that stuff."
All that stuff turned out to be some of the most fun stuff -- not just for Crosby, but the people who helped him grow up.
"It was pretty special," said Mason. "As a community we were pretty overwhelmed. I know when they called me the day after they won the Cup and asked me to organize it, I said sure, I'll do what I can. Never realized how much it would take off.
"It was overwhelming. ... For me it was like organizing a birthday party for your kid. You want to make it special for the kid, but you also want to make it special for the people coming -- although you don't expect 75,000 to 80,000 people to come. The community aspect of it was overwhelming. It turned out wonderful."
The celebration allowed Mason the opportunity to reminisce about the Crosby he coached.
"He was very competitive, but his ability to see the ice and make plays offensively that no one else could do was probably the greatest skill he had," said Mason. "There were many times, in pee wee hockey, we'd watch and say, 'Did he do that on purpose?' Because he was seeing the ice and doing things no other kid could do. The other thing was his competitive drive, his will to win. In my 30 years in coaching, I don't think I've seen anyone with that desire. Very competitive, very wanting to improve. I see it now -- he's constantly trying to better himself. I see the other players around here that are playing pro, but he has that constant desire to get better.
"I'm one of the people who never believes thinking too much about kids (in the future) when they're at that age, but I think Sid was the exception. The point we knew was when we went to Quebec for the minor tournament, and we played Detroit Compuware, some of the top teams ... and we saw how Sid dominated up there. We thought, OK, he's one of the best in the world here, and he was still younger than all those kids."
Not much has changed since then. Crosby remains one of the younger players in the League -- only 72 of the 974 players who played last season were younger than Crosby -- and he still dominates.
Crosby started learning how to dominate on the ice and behave off it from some very valuable sources in Cole Harbour. It's why, when his time with the Cup came, there was no question where he was going to take it.
"I just felt really proud to be able to do it," said Crosby. "It's something I always dreamed of doing."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.