Thinking back to his first impressions of Pittsburgh after arriving here for the first time in the summer of 2005 and what he remembers from that day, Sidney Crosby couldn't help but smile.
"Well, the airport," Crosby said. "That's kind of the first memory I have. Just the amount of people that were there, just the excitement and just how welcomed I felt from the very first day I got here, right from that experience on. As far as what I felt that day, I've felt the entire time since I've been here."
Now, over 15 years later, Crosby is set to become the first player in Penguins history to appear in 1,000 games with the team on Saturday against the New York Islanders at PPG Paints Arena.
"Growing up, you want to play in the NHL, that's your dream," he said. "You don't ever know if it's going to happen. But once you're able to accomplish that, you just want to play as long as you can. And I love it as much as I did Game 1. I'm grateful that I've been able to play this long."
Even to this day, Crosby still remembers how nervous he was going into that first game on Oct. 5, 2005 against the New Jersey Devils at Continental Airlines Arena.
"Just anxious, excited, a lot of different emotions," Crosby said. "I feel like just so much is unknown. The league, the team you're playing against, everything. So I think I had a lot of different emotions, but obviously I was excited and proud that I was living out my dream of playing in the NHL. So that's kind of the best way I could describe that."
Video: Crosby speaks to the media
Out of the hundreds of games that Crosby has since gone on to play, he said the first home game of his rookie season on Oct. 8, 2005 against Boston at Mellon Arena stands out. Crosby scored his first goal to go along with two assists for his first career multi-point effort.
Another is the last home game of that same season on April 17, 2006 vs. the New York Islanders, where Crosby entered the contest - the second-to-last of the year - with 97 points. He went on to earn three assists in the game to reach 100 points and tie Mario Lemieux's team rookie record (he would end up with 102 points).
"We were in 29th place and didn't really have a reason to have an atmosphere like that, but everyone came out and was so supportive of us it felt like it was a playoff game that night," Crosby said. "Just the way that people wanted to see me hit 100 points and were supporting me that way, it was one of those nights where you didn't expect at atmosphere like that when you stepped on the ice. I always feel like that was a pretty special night."
Crosby was just 18 years old that whole season, and looking back, the advice the Penguins captain would give his teenage self is just to be patient.
"There's things you have to learn and things you have to experience in order to improve, and it doesn't happen overnight," Crosby said. "Just enjoy it as much as you can, because it goes fast, but just to be patient."
It has certainly been a daily endeavor for Crosby these past 15-plus years, with his unmatched drive, competitiveness and insatiable appetite to be the best resulting in a legendary career that has reached its latest milestone.
"There's a lot of guys that want to win, but there aren't as many that want to do what it takes to win," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "There's a lot of guys that want to be the best, but there aren't as many that are willing to do what it takes to be the best. And I think Sid has both of those. Not only is he a winner and a champion, but he's also willing to put the time in each and every day. You don't just flip a switch and create the type of legacy that he's created. It's an impressive resume, and I don't think he's finished. I think he's got a lot of hockey left to build on the impressive resume that he has."
Crosby isn't putting a timetable on how many more years he sees himself playing. Right now, he said the focus is on playing out the rest of his contract - which goes through the 2024-25 campaign - and seeing how he feels then.
"I think as long as I feel good, I think I'll play as long as I can," Crosby said. "I don't really have an idea of what that that age or number is. But now, I feel really good. And it's been great to get in some games here consistently and get a little bit of rhythm that way, so hopefully we can get some momentum there. But I feel good and I want to play as long as I can."
When Crosby signed that deal on June 28, 2012, his agent Pat Brisson said he wanted to be a Penguin forever - and that remains the case.
"I love playing here," Crosby said. "And this is where I'd love to play for the rest of my career."