Scoring champion, MVP, captain and – instructor?
Yes, Sidney Crosby added another title to his resume Monday as he made a surprise visit to the Pittsburgh Penguins Summer Hockey School as a guest instructor.
Crosby was on the ice for the afternoon session at the RMU Island Sports Center on Neville Island helping hockey players of all ages work on their games.
“It’s fun to go out there and to see the looks on the kids’ faces. It’s a way to give back a little bit,” he said. “These kids follow our team and support our team, so it’s a little way to give back. It’s fun for everyone and I enjoy doing it.
“There were a lot of kids on the ice who hope to see our games in person or on TV. I know, growing up, if I had the opportunity to skate with guys I followed or had as a role model, I thought it was great. It’s fun for us and fun for them, too.”
Crosby, who surprised campers at last year’s Penguins Summer Hockey School also, really enjoys working with the younger players – even though, at 20, he’s not much older than some of them.
“We try to keep it kind of a surprise – you never know who is going to be there. I remember being at hockey camps and guys would make surprise appearances and it really adds to the whole experience. I am glad I could do that, too,” he said. “You can always learn, no matter what age group you are or where you’re playing. If kids can realize how important it is to learn at such a young age, hopefully, they will continue to learn down the road, too. Maybe that’s something we can teach them.
“It’s important having someone to follow and look up to and, hopefully, learn from. I don’t mind being that person. That’s, obviously, a responsibility, but it’s fine with me. I can name so many players that I looked up to and who really encouraged me and really made a difference in me playing hockey, too. I think it is important.”
Crosby likes to let the children have fun while they learn .
“For sure, you want to help the kids. It’s tough being there for one day. There’s only so much you can do,” he said. “But, maybe there’s one thing a kid can take away from the lesson you’re giving them or the things they learned, hopefully, it’s something they can enjoy and have fun with. The main thing is to go there and have fun, you don’t want to be too strict, but it’s good if they learn something, too.”
It wasn’t all that long ago that Crosby was participating in similar camps, so he knows how valuable the experiences are.
“It was always nice to be on the ice with guys you looked up to. A lot of times, it was more local guys who had made it back home,” he said. “Sometimes, that was even more of an impression because you knew those guys grew up in the same areas and played for the same teams, so it was easy to make those comparisons. It was a neat opportunity for me to meet them and learn something from them. I can still remember a guy teaching a shot or a certain move and that stuck with me and hopefully I can have the same impact.”
The Penguins Summer Hockey School certainly does that with head instructor Mike Yeo, the Penguins’ assistant head coach, and two-time Stanley Cup champ Phil Bourque and world-class power skating guru Besa Tsintsadze on the ice. In addition, Penguins head coach Michel Therrien will make an appearance Friday.