TORONTO (CP) - Wayne Gretzky had Dave Semenko, and just about every other bigtime NHL scorer had an on-ice bodyguard to deal with would-be needlers.
Sidney Crosby goes without. The Pittsburgh Penguins star, and league points leader, doesn't seem to need an enforcer at his side. The way the sport has changed, it's not as important as once deemed to be.
Besides, Crosby is perfectly capable of looking after himself. Not that he'd never drop the gloves to stand up for himself.
"I hope it doesn't come to that," he says. "That's not something I want to make a habit of doing."
The Penguins practised in Toronto on Friday in preparation for a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
Opponents continue to take shots at him, and he doesn't expect that'll ever end. He went through it in junior, too. Guys try to get his goat and suck him - usually unsuccessfully - into penalties.
"Most of the time, it's exactly that," he says of the constant needlers. "I'm not worried about it too much. I've gone through it before."
The Penguins appear to be playoff bound, and two or three years down the road they could be a powerhouse.
"We're so worried about now that we don't get caught up in that," says Crosby. "But it's exciting.
"There's no doubt we have a lot of young talent. We're learning and experiencing things together, but we can't take anything for granted. We realize how hard we have to work in order to be successful. The day we stop working hard, we're not going to have success. I think we're just trying to have fun with it right now."
Wins breed confidence, which leads to more wins. That's what is happening for the team now, he says.
"When you're whole team has confidence and every line is contributing every night and you have a strong goalie . . . Marc-Andre (Fleury) has been unbelievable for us. You can only go as far as your goalie takes you and I think he's been great for us. He's probably been the biggest difference."
Crosby is way ahead in the scoring race but insists he doesn't dwell on statistics.
"I wasn't worried about where I was going to be in terms of stats," he said. "I was worried about what position our team as going to be in.
"We're happy to be competing for spots in the playoffs. We want to be there after 82 games. My biggest focus is on winning."
The Penguins are a fast team, and Crosby says it is a big factor in the success.
"All four lines can skate," he said. "It's nice to have that.
"The way the game is played now, you need speed in order to create things, to draw penalties. It's a big part of our game."