TORONTO - Mr. Hockey says people should cut Sid The Kid some slack.
Hockey legend Gordie Howe doesn't believe Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby intentionally failed to shake hands with some Detroit players after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.
Howe said Crosby's natural shyness combined with getting caught up in the emotion of winning an NHL championship resulted in Crosby getting in line to shake hands after some Red Wings had left the ice.
"He got caught up," Howe said Thursday after serving as the Queen's Plate honorary drawmaster at Woodbine Racetrack. "He will mature.
"He's a good kid."
During a chaotic post-game scene on the crowded Joe Louis Arena ice following Pittsburgh's 2-1 victory, Crosby was ushered to several live television interviews, hugged some teammates and was presented the Stanley Cup by commissioner Gary Bettman.
Crosby was celebrating when Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom, assistant Kris Draper and some other key Red Wings went to their dressing room. Crosby did get into line to shake hands with Detroit players, including head coach Mike Babcock and goalie Chris Osgood.
Afterwards, Draper ripped Crosby, accusing him of snubbing Lidstrom during post-game handshakes.
But Howe, 81, defended Crosby, saying the Penguins superstar is really very shy. In fact, during a recent visit with Crosby, Howe added the Pittsburgh captain didn't say a word.
"He's too damn shy," Howe said. "He never said a word, never blinked.
"During the five minutes I talked to him I basically said, 'Don't let anything bother you, just keep on the right road. You're on the right road and you're doing a hell of a lot of good jobs and good luck.' He just stared at me, turned around and walked away."
And that brought a smile to Howe's face.
"I just grinned and said, 'That takes me back to the days where I used to hide,"' Howe said. "That's because I was afraid I might say something wrong.
"I was the same way. I'd go into the washroom and take about a half-hour shower and they (reporters) would get sick of waiting and leave. I was afraid of saying something wrong and I think he's in that same situation, he doesn't know what to say, what is right and what is wrong?"'
Howe - whose wife Colleen died in March at age 76 of Pick's disease, a degenerative brain disorder - also remembers superstar Wayne Gretzky initially being very shy.
"The first time I met Wayne Gretzky . . . he never said anything back," Howe said. "The second time, we couldn't shut him up.
"It's just kids. We all have to learn."
As for Crosby's ability as a hockey player, Howe said there's plenty to be impressed with.
"I'm not going to say he knows everything, but he's getting there fast," Howe said. "A couple more years if he stays healthy, who knows?"
Howe said during his glory days with the Red Wings in the 1950s and '60s, the rivalries between teams were very intense, to the point where it was hard to shake hands after a series ended.
"When we had it you lined up at the blue-line and just banged hands," he said. "You're punching them in the nose and five minutes later you're going to shake his hand?
"To hell with that. Maybe they shouldn't even have the players out there."
The Detroit-Pittsburgh final was an exciting one which saw the Penguins rally to capture the Stanley Cup by winning the final two games of the series. But Howe says he didn't see it.
"Since I retired I've had to work," he said with a chuckle.