Pens captain Sidney Crosby watched the last World Cup of Hockey back in 2004, saying he remembers Vincent LeCavalier scoring the game-winning goal to lead Team Canada to victory.
This month, Crosby will playing in the tournament – which is being held for the first time since that year – instead of watching as he was named captain of Team Canada.
The chance to experience the World Cup after taking part in numerous other international tournaments – which has helped Crosby become a member of the Triple Gold club after winning two Olympic gold medals, a World Championship and of course, a couple of Stanley Cups – is going to be something new and exciting for the 29-year-old.
“I think being able to have the opportunity to represent your country at any level and at any event is great,” Crosby told PittsburghPenguins.com. “And I think that knowing what the level is like – you look back to Olympics and other international events, World Championships and stuff like that – it’s such a high level of hockey. It’s fun to be able to play in Canada, too. You know that there’s going to be a ton of support and a ton of excitement.”
However, before Team Canada heads home to Toronto – where the World Cup begins Sept. 17 – they will be stopping in Pittsburgh along with Russia, North America and Czech Republic.
The teams will spend a couple of days practicing in the city before it hosts a pre-tournament doubleheader on Sept. 14 at CONSOL Energy Center. North America will play the Czech Republic at 3:30 p.m., while Canada will face Russia at 7:30 p.m.
(One ticket provides admission to both games. Tickets are on sale now at ticketmaster.com, at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Box Office at CONSOL Energy Center, or by calling 888.745.3000).
“It’s fun. Obviously I’m familiar with the surroundings, and to play at your home rink is great,” Crosby said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to show the guys around the city a little bit and just show off Pittsburgh. Everyone’s probably used to coming to the hotel and the rink when they come to town for a game, so maybe if we get an extra few days we’ll be able to see the city and (I can) show it off a little bit.”
For Pittsburgh to have the opportunity to host a major hockey event like this, Crosby said, speaks to their love for the sport.
“The World Cup wouldn’t come here if there wasn’t enough support, if they didn’t think people had passion for the game,” Crosby said. “So it says a lot about this city and their passion for hockey and the support that they show at big events.”
Crosby is looking forward to the opportunity to bring his national team to his adopted home, and show the people here in Pittsburgh fantastic hockey.
“I think for a fan’s perspective, they’re going to be able to see some great hockey and some teams that are assembled with some unbelievable talent and skill,” he said. “I think the people will be happy with what they see on the ice and I think as players, everyone will be excited to play in front of a big crowd and definitely an energetic one.”
The fans here are obviously familiar with the players they see on a nightly basis – Crosby for Team Canada, Evgeni Malkin for Team Russia, Matt Murray for Team North America – as well as Pittsburgh natives John Gibson, Brandon Saad and J.T. Miller, who will be joining the Pens netminder on the under-23 team.
But there’s going to be so many other incredible talents that don’t pass through Pittsburgh often – including one who has yet to make his debut in the city.
That’s Connor McDavid, who was chosen first overall by Edmonton in 2015 and is viewed as the next generational talent after Crosby, as he had to miss both games against the Pens last year in his rookie season due to injury.
“I think the one that would stick out is Connor McDavid,” Crosby said. “I don’t think he played in Pittsburgh. I think he was hurt. To be able to see him, someone who plays usually out West and is as good as he is, to be able to see him up close, that young team is going to be pretty fast and should make for pretty entertaining hockey to watch. I think that whole team will be exciting to watch.”
As will the whole tournament – as Pittsburgh will soon find out.
“It’s going to be pretty intense hockey,” Crosby said. “I think that’s what you prepare for. I would say that the level, the talent, the skill is going to be so high and I think to have that kind of hockey at that time of year, where usually guys are kind of getting back into it at that time, getting ready for camps and stuff, this is going to be a pretty high level of hockey right away. So it’s exciting. Coming off playoffs last year and being back in some really big games right away, I’m excited."