CRANBERRY, Pa. -- It was an optional practice for the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday following their 3-2 victory against the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday.
So of course Penguins captain Sidney Crosby opted to practice.
Nine years ago Tuesday, Crosby was named captain of the Penguins. Not that he was aware of the anniversary.
"It doesn't seem like it's been that long, to be honest. It's gone by really quick," Crosby said at the end of his 15-minute post-practice interview session.
Then, with a grin:
"There's probably been spans during that time that felt a little longer than you'd want. But at the end of the day I don't think I'd sit here and complain about anything."
Video: Hear what Crosby had to say after today's practice
You will hear nothing but praise from the Penguins, who won the Stanley Cup in 2009 with Crosby as their captain and have watched, with the rest of us, as a teenager's peach-fuzzed playoff cheeks today have become moderately covered by the scruff of a 28-year-old.
Crosby played 165 regular-season and Stanley Cup Playoff games for the Penguins before he was named captain May 31, 2007 by then-Penguins general manager Ray Shero.
Crosby did not accept the captaincy when Shero first offered it to him in January 2007. And that was about a year after the idea was mentioned to him by coach Michel Therrien after captain/co-owner Mario Lemieux retired.
"I thought I needed some time to grow a little bit more," Crosby said the day Lemieux presented him with a jersey with the captain's C stitched on it. "I couldn't be in a better situation than what the team has with a mix of young guys and older guys.
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"We talked about it probably midway through last year. I just thought it wasn't the right time. We were playing great. You don't want to disrupt that and I felt I wasn't ready to accept that responsibility quite yet."
Shero said then, "Part of what makes Sidney not your average 19-year-old kid is that he gave it some thought for two or three weeks and came back to us and said he didn't feel the time was right. He didn't really turn it down. He deferred it, basically."
At 19 years and 297 days old, Crosby at the time became the youngest NHL captain, 27 days younger than Vincent Lecavalier when he was named captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning in March 2000. Crosby was the eighth player to be an NHL captain by age 21, along with Ryan Walter (Washington Capitals, 1979-80), Dale Hawerchuk (Winnipeg Jets, 1984-85), Steve Yzerman (Detroit Red Wings, 1986-87), Kirk Muller (New Jersey Devils, 1987-88), Trevor Linden (Vancouver Canucks, 1990-91), Eric Lindros (Philadelphia Flyers, 1994-95) and Lecavalier.
There was no doubt in Shero's mind then that Crosby was perfectly prepared for the additional pressure.
Video: NHL Tonight on Crosby's leadership and resiliency
"Sidney has done so much for this franchise in his first two seasons, made so much history, that you have to keep reminding yourself that he is only 19 years old," he said. "But Sid's contributions extend far beyond statistics and his incredible achievements on the ice. It's obvious to all of us -- coaches, players, management, staff -- that he has grown into the acknowledged leader of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It is only appropriate that he wears the C as team captain."
Therrien said, "We don't want him to change. We want him to be Sidney Crosby and lead. He's still learning."
If Crosby had arrived in the NHL with tantalizing promise as arguably the most anticipated player of his generation, his second season truly was a revelation. He became the youngest winner of the Art Ross Trophy with his League-leading 120 points (36 goals, 84 assists), finishing six points ahead of San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton, who he's facing now in the Stanley Cup Final.
Add to that the Hart Memorial Trophy, given to the player voted most valuable to his team, and the Lester B. Pearson Award (since 2010 known as the Ted Lindsay Award), given to the most outstanding player as voted by members of the NHL Players' Association.
Crosby was a star in the eyes not just of his team and his fans. At age 18, before his first game at Bell Centre against the Montreal Canadiens, referee and fellow Nova Scotia native Don Koharski held up the opening faceoff until a photographer in the penalty box could snap him posing with the phenom.
"We need a photo of the two Nova Scotia legends together," Koharski told Crosby. To which the Penguins center replied playfully, not missing a beat: "Where's the other one?"
Eleven seasons into his remarkable career, Crosby continues to dazzle, his toolbox packed with items that allow him to construct a game as he wishes.
But he is more an artist than a hard hat. On Tuesday, having taken part in a breezy Penguins practice that he easily could have skipped, he sat under his dressing-room nameplate and used both a broad roller and a fine-tipped brush to analyze one game in a Stanley Cup Final that only might have cleared its throat.
As the media crowd thinned, Crosby considered nine years of Penguins captaincy and seemed almost a little lost for words.
"It's tough [to summarize it]," he said. "It's great to be able to love what you do and play in the NHL and have opportunities like this. [But] it's hard to believe it's been that long."