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Crosby showing perspective about early successes

by Dave Lozo
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield broke into show business at the tender age of 18, writing jokes for other comics while doing his own stand-up act. It took 40 years for him to reach the pinnacle of his career, when he finally gained notoriety by starring in the classic comedy "Caddyshack" in 1980.

Dangerfield had achieved the success that all entertainers crave, and all it took was four decades of languishing and struggling and fighting and clawing and sweat and tears.

Sidney Crosby has no idea what any of that feels like.

The Penguins superstar broke into the NHL at 18 in 2005, and in fewer than five years, he's attained everything a professional hockey player desires.

At 22, Crosby already has a Stanley Cup, a Hart Trophy as the League's MVP, an Olympic gold medal -- which he won thanks to his overtime goal against the United States last Sunday -- and a long-term contract that ensures he and his family never will have to worry about money ever again.

There's a danger in accomplishing so much so quickly. Once you've reached your goals -- and done so with an already fat bank account -- some athletes tend to spend the rest of their careers playing retired. The drive isn't gone, but it's certainly diminished. It's easy to start taking things for granted.

Crosby has shown great respect -- something Dangerfield would appreciate -- for what he's accomplished, and he knows future Stanley Cups are not guaranteed.

"It's rewarding. I appreciate it. That's the way I look at it," Crosby said of his massive, early success. "I appreciate that there's guys who work just as hard, there are guys that may not get those opportunities that play a long time. If anything, I just really appreciate it. I appreciate the chances that I've had, the fact that I've had them and been able to win."

The great athletes never rest on their laurels. Winning championships for them is like a drug -- the first taste just makes the urge for a second one all the more stronger. Michael Jordan might have temporarily retired from the NBA after winning three consecutive titles with the Chicago Bulls, but he returned to win another three in a row after he couldn't get his fix while playing minor-league baseball.

Does Crosby have another five Stanley Cups in his future? No one knows for sure, but teammate Bill Guerin doesn't see Crosby losing his passion and hanging up the skates any time soon.

"He definitely is," Guerin said when asked if Crosby is intense enough to keep him from falling into the trap of thinking he's entitled to more Cups. "He's the type of guy who probably hasn't looked at his Stanley Cup ring since the day he got it. His medal will be tucked away some place safe, never to look at it until he's done playing. He's just that kind of guy. He's really motivated."

Plenty of athletes who have won championships early in the careers only to never get another crack at glory have said they thought those opportunities would happen all the time. When Crosby talked about players who work hard all their careers only to never get back to a Cup Final, he might as well have been talking about Guerin.

The 39-year-old right wing never will be mistaken for Crosby, but they did have similar beginnings to their careers. Guerin was one goal away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 1994, but his New Jersey Devils lost in overtime to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. Crosby suffered similar heartbreak two seasons ago when the Pens lost in six games to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final.

But just like Crosby last season, Guerin raised the Stanley Cup over his head with the Devils just one season later. Guerin, then 24, believed at the time trips to the conference finals and Cup Final were going to be the norm for him.

It took 14 years for Guerin to win the Cup again.

"Yep. I thought I'd be on a good team every year," Guerin said. "When I got traded, when I went and started playing in Edmonton (in 1997), I realized there are teams out there that are young and fighting for their lives every single night. It was obviously great just to make the playoffs, but once we were in things were up against us. That's just the way it was."

Crosby is keeping that mind as the Penguins look to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the third year in a row. But he knows he can use Guerin's career as a reminder that good fortune is promised to no one.

"We lost a couple years ago in the Stanley Cup Final, and it could've been a long time before we were back, and luckily we got back there the following year and we were able to win it," Crosby said. "I think if anything, I have an appreciation for that because I've played with guys and known guys who have played and haven't been so lucky."

No respect? It's quite the opposite with Crosby.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DLozoNHL

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