COLE HARBOUR, Nova Scotia -- The staging area Saturday was the church parking lot where Sidney Crosby played street hockey as a kid.
"I don't think I ever thought I'd be starting off a Stanley Cup parade there," Crosby said.
The 1.1-mile parade route he traveled while standing in the back of a Ford F-150 truck with the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy is one Crosby could probably drive in his sleep if he had to.
Take a right off of Colby Drive onto Cumberland Drive. Go up the hill and through the Cole Harbour Road intersection onto Forest Hills Parkway. Drive past the Sobeys, Shoppers Drug Mart, Tim Hortons and Canadian Tire on your left. Keep going until you get to Cole Harbour Place, the community's dual-rink and multipurpose recreational facility where Crosby spent countless hours learning a craft that has allowed him to become the generational star he is today.
"That's exactly how I came to the rink for every game or practice," Crosby said.
While an estimated crowd of 30,000-plus, according to local police, lined the route from St. John XXIII Church to Cole Harbour Place, all to get a glimpse of the local hockey hero who for the second time brought the Stanley Cup to them, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain kept thinking about what the route meant to him as he went along it.
"It's about dreams and them coming true and being able to share it with everybody," Crosby said.
He did that in a massive way Saturday.
Crosby admittedly had no idea if the turnout would be similar to what it was seven years ago, when he brought the Cup home after winning it for the first time with the Penguins, and the crowds on either side of the streets along his parade route packed in six and seven deep at some parts to 10 and 11 deep at others.
"Sure enough, it was packed again," Crosby said.
Again with six or seven deep at some parts, 10 or 11 at others, with people from all over the Halifax region and the world.
Families from the United Kingdom, who had children attending the Sidney Crosby Hockey School at Cole Harbour Place this week, changed their travel plans so they could be on the parade route.
A couple from Ohio drove for three days to be here to witness the celebration.
Joelle and Scott Rowlings parked their motor home in the Canadian Tire parking lot overnight so they would have a good spot for the parade with their daughter Gracee and her friends, James and Julia Leslie.
They all live less than 10 miles away in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, The kids go to the Ross Road School in neighboring Westphal. Their principal is Paul Mason, Crosby's peewee hockey coach, a fixture at Cole Harbour Place who continues to play a major role in Crosby's life, including helping him and his family arrange the parade.
"We don't know Sid, but we know so many people that know him, so it really feels like we know him too," Scott Rowlings said. "I'm a mechanic and I remember Paul Mason talking to my boss about this up-and-coming kid. It's all come together."
The Rowlings are an example of the reason Crosby brought the Cup back to Cole Harbour. A big reason Crosby loves having the Stanley Cup is because it gives him a chance to get an up-close look of the impact it has on everybody else.
His enjoyment comes from winning and helping to make memories for others, like Sherri and Peter Rose, who live around the corner from the church parking lot where the parade began.
They were at Crosby's Cup parade in 2009 with their son, Alexander. He was on Peter's shoulders for that parade. Now 8 years old, Alexander was wearing his Crosby jersey and hanging with his friend, Thomas Cluett, waiting for the parade to begin.
Like Crosby once did, they play for the Cole Harbour Red Wings in the Cole Harbour Bel Ayr Minor Hockey Association.
"He's a great role model," Sherri Rose said of Crosby. "We're very lucky to have him for the kids to look up to."
"They feel like they have a chance because he's from here," added Lee Cluett, Thomas' dad.
Crosby passed them all, raising the Cup above his head, kissing it when he could, resting it on the roof of the truck when he got tired, but never, ever a hand off for fear of it falling.
He signed autographs from the bed of the truck at the start of the parade. He waved and smiled and laughed like the king of Cole Harbour. Along the way, he saw many familiar faces, including one of his junior high school teachers.
"I haven't seen him probably in 10 years, but I saw him on the parade route and I think about even the impact he had and how good of a teacher he was," Crosby said. "Whether you move on and play in the NHL or not, I think people always impact you in the community. There are so many people who do that here. I feel pretty lucky to have had people like that around me."
The moment when it really clicked for Crosby was when he got to Cole Harbour Place, to that right turn into the parking lot he had made so many times before.
Behind him were thousands of people he had already passed. They funneled into the street from the sidewalks to follow the convoy of trucks and local police. In front of Crosby was a sea of people who had been waiting at Cole Harbour Place, many for several hours.
"That just shows you the support that's here," Crosby said. "It just makes it that much more special when you're able to bring it back and have a turnout like this."
Crosby was finally welcomed onto the main stage set up behind Cole Harbour Place for a Q&A with TSN's Gord Miller. Crosby raised the Stanley Cup and kissed it. He looked out in front of him and saw a massive crowd that had to make him feel like a rock star.
They held signs in his honor, cheered him and chanted his name.
"Thank you," Crosby said to them. "Thank you for your support."
They cheered even louder. One person with good timing waited for a rare lull and screamed, "You're a class act, Sid."
"I'm proud to come back here," Crosby said. "And I hope we can do this again."