It'd be hard to tell by simply going off Sidney Crosby's NHL All-Star Game resume that the Pittsburgh Penguins captain has been considered one of the best, if not the best player in the world, since his rookie season of 2005-06.
The 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 25 (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) will be Crosby's second in his 10-year career. He played in the 2007 All-Star Game in Dallas but missed the past four in Atlanta (2008), Montreal (2009), Carolina (2011) and Ottawa (2012).
Crosby has a good reason for being absent.
"It's not really crazy considering I missed on three chances because of the Olympics (2006, 2010, 2014) and four because of injury," Crosby said before a game last Friday against the New York Islanders. "One was a high-ankle sprain, two were concussions, and one was my knee."
Right then, Crosby knocked on the wooden bench he was sitting on inside the visitors dressing room at Nassau Coliseum. He'd like nothing more than to stay healthy through the next two games -- Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers and Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks -- so he can be a player, not just an attendee, in Columbus this weekend.
Crosby spoke about the upcoming 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend -- which features the 2015 NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft presented by DraftKings on Jan. 23 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports), and the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 24 (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) -- and some of his favorite memories of past All-Star Games:
Does the idea of playing in this All-Star Game have special meaning to you, especially since you've missed so many that you've been selected to play in?
"Yeah, it's nice. I think just to be able to go there with all the guys representing different teams is good. Some of the guys are guys you've met before and others you haven't, so it's nice to be a part of that. The game itself is probably the most enjoyable, just seeing all that talent and skill on the ice at the same time."
Have you been watching the All-Star Games that you weren't able to play in?
"Yeah. I was at the one in Montreal in 2009. I don't remember the one in Atlanta as well. I played in the one in Dallas. You know, they've been changing the look a little bit over the years when I think of the different things. When I think of the last couple I think of the different things with the skills competition, the draft, bringing the young guys to do the skills competition. The young guys used to do a game, that young guns game. They've really switched the format up a lot, but the game always kind of sticks out. I remember watching [Kris] Letang in Carolina, definitely."
This is your first experience with the fantasy draft. Does the draft aspect intrigue you, scare you?
"They're always adding stuff to spice it up a bit and I think it just puts a cool spin on it, but I'm old-fashioned, I liked the old East vs. West. I think it's probably something they look at every year to see what they can add or subtract to make it better, but I have always just kind of liked the East vs. West. I always thought there were bragging rights on the line, even though it is an All-Star Game. When the game gets tight it's going to get competitive anyway, but definitely with East vs. West."
Are you curious where you'll be picked in this draft?
"If you're last you get the car, right? Hey, I'm sure it just creates that buildup before the game. You see how guys pick their teams, is it East or West heavy? You can get a feel for what guys are looking for early on. We'll see how it goes. I don't know where I'm going to go, but if it's last it's a car and it's not the end of the world. Those kind of things, you're just competitive once you get going."
Did you watch All-Star Games growing up and do you have any specific memories of them?
"Yeah, I did. I just remember the skills competition, the fastest skater and the hardest shot, those two. You always were waiting for Al MacInnis or Al Iafrate in the hardest shot, and now obviously [Zdeno] Chara and [Shea] Weber have had that duel for quite some time. That stuff was neat to see. I used to love watching Mario [Lemieux] and [Wayne] Gretzky go on a 2-on-0 or a 3-on-0 against [Martin] Brodeur, or stuff like that. That's cool stuff. Now it's geared toward the funny parts, almost like the slam-dunk competition where you get the trick plays, stuff like that. But I always used to love watching those guys together."
What does it mean to you that Marc-Andre Fleury was selected?
"It's great. It's well deserved. The year he's had and the way he's played for us, especially losing as many guys as we have, it hasn't been easy and he's very deserving of it. I know it's something he's pretty proud of."