Since the end of July, the hockey world’s focus has been on Pittsburgh. From the Penguins winning the NHL Draft Lottery and selecting Sidney Crosby to bringing in big-name free agents and building a contender.
That focus shifts to New Jersey on Wednesday night as the revamped Penguins make their debut at 7:30 p.m. against the Devils. However, the majority of the eyes will be on No. 87 – it’s an NHL debut many have anticipated for years, including Crosby.
“Your first game is something you always remember,” he said. “That’s the one I have dreamed about since I first started playing.”
Crosby explains that he won’t do anything out of the ordinary for his debut.
“I will think about it when the time comes. I don’t think it’s going to be anything where I am not going to sleep or anything like that, but I am sure I am going to be excited,” he said. “On game day, you always go through a routine. I just have to do the same things I do on every other game day and get ready for the game.”
While Crosby will go through his same routine, the media will go through a totally different one. This game is scheduled to attract an unprecedented level of coverage for any home opener. It will have all the attention – and more – of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Although, this contest is in October, not June.
Sports Illustrated, USA Today, NBC, OLN, ESPN, ESPN The Magazine, The New York Times, among others, are scheduled to make Crosby the center of their NHL coverage Wednesday even though he has yet to take a shift in a regular season NHL game.
All the attention doesn’t bother Crosby, who is more than accommodating to any interview requests.
“No, this is part of it,” he said. “I understand that.”
Crosby is not pressuring himself to equal the NHL debut of Mario Lemieux, his teammate and landlord. Lemieux scored a goal on his first shot of first shift in his first game in 1984 in Boston.
“I was pretty nervous for the first game,” said Lemieux, who turns 40 on Wednesday. “I started in Boston Garden and was lucky enough to get a breakaway on my first shift and score. That took a lot of pressure off of me and gave me a little bit of confidence to start my career.”
“I know what he did,” said Crosby, who is 18, with a smile. “If it comes, it comes, but I am not going to be rattled for the rest of the game if it doesn’t happen.”
Lemieux isn’t worried about Crosby. His presence will help his young apprentice deal with first-game jitters.
“I don’t know if I can remember that far back (to my debut),” Lemieux said with a laugh. “I just remember being really nervous and anxious to start my career. It was a dream come true to play in the NHL and compete with these guys you grow up watching. It’s going to be the same thing for him Wednesday. He is going to have a long day – 7:30 p.m. is not going to come soon enough for him. He just has to prepare himself mentally and physically. Hopefully, he can get off to a good start.”
Crosby knows he’s ready to go.
“There’s no doubt in my mind. I did what I could to prepare myself for this,” he said. “There’s no doubt, you have to go out there and play with confidence.”