As Sidney Crosby got set to become the first player in Penguins history to play in 1,000 NHL games on Saturday at PPG Paints Arena, the team honored him with a ceremony prior to puck drop.
And as a special video tribute played on the jumbotron, with congratulatory messages interspersed among highlights and moments from the journey to this milestone, Crosby found himself getting emotional - especially after he glanced across the ice at Evgeni Malkin and realized he was tearing up as well.
"Just for all those things to kind of come back and then think about and reflect on all those things, it was definitely hard to keep it together," Crosby said before adding with a laugh, "Didn't help when I looked over and saw Geno having a hard time, too. So just a really special day and special night."
Crosby recorded two assists and was named the No. 1 Star in Pittsburgh's 3-2 win over the New York Islanders. He said what he'll remember most about the night is actually the day. Which is fitting, since Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto declared today "Sidney Crosby Day" in the city.
"I think different experiences that I've had, I've always just tried to treat it like a regular day, and that was pretty much impossible today," Crosby said. "Just with the way that everyone treated me and just all the little things. … I think just hearing from old teammates by text or on the videos, sharing it with all the guys in here, there's just so many things.
"But I think I'll remember the whole day itself and leading up to it, and obviously the fact that we won it. It's great that we won, but it was just the way that it felt and that I was treated all day was pretty unique."
Before the public ceremony, the players did a private ceremony in the room, where Malkin and Kris Letang presented their captain with a Rolex watch. From there, every single one of them donned a Crosby jersey to wear during warmups. It was quite the sight to 'C' once the players took the ice, especially since no one else in the league wears his iconic No. 87.
"Seeing all the guys in the 87 jerseys, I didn't see that one coming," Crosby said with a smile. "It's a little odd when you first see it, but just reminds you how special the night is."
While that was fantastic, the best part was when Crosby knelt down to tie his skates, which is one of his warmup routines - and the entire team did the same. After the game, Letang wouldn't divulge whose idea it was, but hinted that the veterans may have had something to do with it.
"I can't give up the names, we try to keep that on the low, but I thought it was pretty cool," Letang said with a grin. "Throughout the years, guys that know him really well, they kind of know his superstitions. To have that done, I think it's going to be a cool memory for him."
Once Crosby looked up and realized it was happening, he started cracking up.
"To see them all tie their skates at the same time, I had a really good laugh," he said. "Didn't expect that, that was pretty good."
As the starting lineup was announced, the team filed onto the ice, with all of the Penguins - even the injured players - wearing their black N-95 masks so they could stand together at the boards by the bench and watch the video tribute. The coaching staff, who watched from the bench, all wore commemorative ties in honor of the occasion.
"Ladies and gentlemen, tonight Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will be appearing in his 1,000th career game in the National Hockey League, becoming the first Penguins player to achieve this incredible milestone," PA announcer Ryan Mill said.
"Since coming to Pittsburgh as the first overall draft pick in 2005, Sidney has led the Penguins to three Stanley Cups, won numerous individual trophies and established himself as one of the greatest players in NHL history. And he's still going strong.
"At this time, we invite Sidney to join his girlfriend Kathy to watch a very special video as the Penguins and the NHL celebrate this remarkable milestone in Sid's career."
Crosby skated over to the Zamboni gate with flowers for Kathy before they turned their attention up to the jumbotron. The tribute began with messages from Crosby's father, Troy; mother, Trina; and younger sister, Taylor.
"Hi, Sidney," Troy said. "It seems like only yesterday we were in Jersey getting ready for your first game. Now it's 1,000. It's crazy."
"I want you to know, dear, that this is about the 20th try for this video," Trina added. "We started and then we started to cry and had to stop and start all over again. We wish we could be there with you to celebrate. We're so happy for you and we couldn't be more proud. We love you."
From there, Steve Yzerman - the player Crosby most looked up to as a kid - was the first of many to offer his congratulations on the milestone.
"Loved the way that he played the game, the way he carried himself," Crosby said. "I remember my first year, I was really excited to be playing against them, but he had an eye injury so he didn't play that night. I remember getting on the bus after the game and I got a call and it was from him, just saying that he wished he would have been able to get out there that night and play against me, and wished me all the best and good luck.
"I was always a big fan of him, but just an unbelievable move and a lot of class and it's something I always remember. So, it was pretty special seeing him on the video here tonight."
The video concluded with messages from Letang and Malkin, who skated over to present Crosby with the customary silver stick, along with a framed mosaic print made up of photos from every single one of the 1,000 games. Having them be so central to everything that happened tonight was incredibly special for Crosby.
"We've been through so much together," he said. "To be able to play here together, to basically come in as young players trying to figure things out and go through what we've gone through - whether it be individually with injuries and being there to support one another, winning championships together - there's a lot of history there. A lot of great memories."
Throughout the night, even more congratulatory messages from around the league - from fan favorites like Marc-Andre Fleury and Phil Kessel and other incredible talents like Alex Ovechkin and Connor McDavid - played during stoppages, along with more Crosby highlights.
"It's a special day regardless of the outcome, but it makes it so much better than when you win," Crosby said. "Just everything from the guys and ceremony in the room, on the ice - just completely spoiled today. So it was a pretty awesome experience and a day that I'll always remember, and just even sweeter that we were able to win."
Letang played a huge part in the victory, scoring twice, including the game-winner - with Crosby assisting on both. After the final buzzer sounded, Letang waited for Crosby at the bench, and gave his captain a big hug as they went down the runway and into the room.
"To get a win for him on his 1,000th game is special," Letang said. "He's been giving so much to all of his teammates throughout the years. I think to get that win for him; it was huge.
"So, we're pretty happy to get out of this building, and have a chance to maybe have a little glass in honor of his 1,000th game."