The thing about Sidney Crosby
is that he became so good, so fast – and handled it all so well -- people forgot how young he was.
Even now, people forget how young he … is.
Sid turns 21 today. Twenty one. In another life, he might be entering his senior year of college, getting ready to earn his degree and send out resumes, looking for a job to chart his place in the world. Instead, he is on the cusp of his fourth National Hockey League season, captain and leader of the hottest young team in hockey, trailblazing scorer and trophy winner, the fresh face of the new NHL and the game’s most marketable commodity.
Expectations always were great, the hype always enormous, especially as he dominated the highest ranks of Canadian major junior hockey to become two-time Canadian junior player of the year in 2004 and 2005. His career CHL points-per-game average of 2.51 was second in national history only to the 2.81 posted by someone named Lemieux. But even as he became the clear-cut No. 1 prospect in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, the supreme prize of the first post-lockout draft lottery, the kind of franchise player every general manger dreamed about … no one could have imagined he would accomplish all this before he turned 21.
Consider that Crosby:
- Become the youngest player in NHL history to score 100 points (18 years, 253 days)
- Broke Mario Lemieux’s team rookie scoring record with 102 points
- Became the youngest player ever to lead the World Championships in scoring, in 2006
- Won the Art Ross Trophy as NHL scoring champion, the Hart Trophy as league MVP, the Lester B. Pearson Award as the game’s most outstanding player and was named First-Team NHL All-Star as a 19-year-old in 2006-07
- Became the youngest player ever to win the Art Ross Trophy.
- Became the youngest player ever to receive the Lester B. Pearson Award.
- Became the second-youngest player ever to win the Hart Trophy (Wayne Gretkzy)
- Became the youngest player to start in the NHL All-Star Game since fan balloting began in 1986
- Became the youngest team captain in NHL history (19 years, nine months)
- Led his team to the playoffs for the first time in six years in 2006-07
- Led his team to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 16 years in 2007-08
And he’s even overcome adversity. Crosby’s shot at a second straight NHL scoring title vanished in 2007-08 when he suffered a high ankle sprain that sidelined him for almost 30 games. But it is intriguing to remember that he was tied for the NHL scoring lead with 63 points when he suffered the injury on Jan. 18, and he finished the season with a points-per-game average (1.36) that was virtually identical to that of the superbly talented league scoring champ Alexander Ovechkin (1.37).
Moreoever, he rebounded magnificently in the Stanley Cup playoffs, sharing the NHL playoff scoring lead with Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg (despite playing two fewer games), leading the league in playoff assists, scoring two goals in the Penguins’ first win of the Cup Finals on home ice and hoisting his young team to within two wins of the sport’s ultimate prize.
Clearly, though, Crosby isn’t caught up in all he’s accomplished, because that prize – winning the Cup, and then winning more Cups – is what motivates him above all else.
In a recent interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, he identified losing in the Cup Finals as the greatest disappointment of his young career, said he’s still bothered by it, said that even several months after the fact, “being so close and not winning is still hard to digest.”
“Not closing the deal – its’ hard not to think about it,” he said. “Everybody I see brings it up. I’m reminded by it everywhere. You always see things on TV where guys had the Cup in their hometown. It’s a constant reminder. The memory of losing is not something that just goes away.
“I thought I was motivated before. It’s definitely more now. Being that close and not being able to do it – it’s just hard. The quicker you can get back to win it, the better.”
And so he’s not satisfied, not by a longshot – even with all the trophies, the records, the accolades, the long-term contract, the sponsorship deals.
Wealthy, accomplished and famous beyond any reasonable imagination as he turns 21, Sidney Crosby
is only just beginning.
Wait ’til he’s 22.