As Sidney Crosby has put together one of the best seasons of his Hall of Fame career at age 36, Mike Sullivan has spoken throughout the year about the captain’s insatiable appetite for being the best, how he’s willing to put in the work to make that happen, and that most of it happens away from the cameras.

So, with the Pittsburgh chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association selecting Crosby as the team’s nominee for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy – awarded annually to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey – I asked the Penguins head coach if he could provide any specific examples for those of us who don’t get to see that side.

Sullivan’s answer to that question lasted nearly seven and a half minutes, and it boils down to this: there aren’t really any ‘aha!’ moments or legendary anecdotes that will provide an easy lede for this story or content for a viral social media post.

Instead, it’s how Crosby goes on the ice 15 minutes before every single practice to work on his shooting with assistant coach Ty Hennes. It’s how Crosby was on the bike after last night’s win in Washington that closed out a gauntlet of games for the Penguins. It’s how Crosby has learned to be in tune with his physiology and what his body needs. It’s how Crosby still embraces the process of it all nearly two decades in.

“It may sound boring, but I think it speaks volumes for his dedication to the game because what makes him unique from other elite players is yeah, he's gifted, he has God-given abilities, he’s one of the greatest players of all time,” Sullivan said. “But I think what explains his legacy is the daily endeavor, because that's really hard. A lot of times, a lot of the things that he does are tedious, and most guys aren't willing to do it, because it takes effort. It takes discipline, and he puts the work in every single day.

“That's the brilliance. That's the genius of it. Nobody sees a lot of it. It's like an iceberg. Most of it is under water. Everybody sees the tip of the iceberg, which is magnificent hockey. But there's a whole lot of substance underneath, and that substance is what I'm talking about … it's how he takes care of his diet, nutrition. It’s how he takes care of himself off the ice. It's the work ethic he puts into the weight room. It's all the routine that he puts in with some of the dynamic warmup stuff and the activation stuff, so that he makes sure he takes care of his hips and his groin and his back. That’s why he’s good.”

Sullivan chuckled when thinking about how Crosby truly does revel in some of the more arduous parts of being a professional hockey player.

“When we practice, he's the only player I've ever coached that actually embraces the grind in practice,” Sullivan said. “When we do down low drills, he relishes it. Every other player on the ice is miserable, and he relishes it. He comes to me all the time, and says, we need more grind, we need more grind. I’m like, Sid, we’re trying to give these guys a rest!”

Crosby’s love for the game hasn’t waned as he’s progressed along in his career. If anything, as the runway gets shorter, it keeps growing.

“I think just having a passion for it, just enjoying the competition and competing – it's obviously only something you can only do for so long,” Crosby said. “So, want to make the most of the time I have to be able to do it. That's kind of how I approach it.”

He also just loves being part of a group, “being part of a great organization… all those things I think are what make team sports, especially hockey, so unique. So I think that's a lot of where the passion comes from, too, as much as the competition part.”

All of that has resulted in Crosby averaging a point per game for the 19th time in his 19-year career, tying Wayne Gretzky for the most in NHL history. The captain is also just one goal shy of cracking the 40-goal plateau for the third time in his career.

Crosby obviously doesn’t do this for any individual recognition, but does he get any sense of satisfaction when his efforts translate into offensive production?

“I mean, it's definitely good to be rewarded when you're working hard. I think that always pushes you a little bit more. It's a little bit easier that way,” he said. “But I think ultimately, you understand that it's not getting any easier as you get older, and you've got to be willing to put the work in, if not more, because of that.

“I think that being said though, the driving force is always to do my best to help the team win. Obviously, we've got back into the picture a little bit here, so I think we're excited for the opportunity. I think that's a big factor, though, when you think about as you get older, you look at some of those playoff series and the experiences that I've had over the course of the years - those are what drive you. Those are the best to be a part of.”

That covers the perseverance and dedication to hockey criteria of the Masterton award, and as for sportsmanship, well, Crosby is an unparalleled leader who takes his responsibilities as both captain and ambassador of the league seriously. He said experience goes a long way in terms of handling the burden on his shoulders.

"I think you just get comfortable with kind of how you handle it," Crosby said. "I think, even as a person, you get more comfortable with that role, with being a captain, going through things in the league over the course of time. It's always a process, but I think it's something that over the course of time, you just get more comfortable, and kind of understand where you're at with everything."

Crosby was his usual humble self in regards to his nomination, saying while he appreciated it, he felt there were a lot of deserving guys in their room. But everyone around him believes he's just as deserving for how he personifies facets of the award.

"I just think he represents everything that's right about hockey in our sport," Sullivan said.