-- As a child growing up in the Nova Scotia community of Cole Harbour, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby
had a lifelong dream -- to win the Stanley Cup. That dream was realized just over five months ago when, at the age of 21, he became the youngest captain in NHL history to hoist the Cup after the Penguins beat the Red Wings in seven games.
Another dream, one that he had never thought possible, came true Wednesday on the streets of downtown Halifax when Crosby became one of 12,000 Canadians who will carry the Olympic Torch en route to Vancouver, where he will make his first-ever appearance in the Winter Games.
"You look at people out there, you see the signs, the excitement and things like that and like I said, you never dream of carrying the torch," Crosby said. "For me, that wasn't something that I ever thought would be a possibility, so when Bell came and said would you like to participate in this, I said 'yes, it'd be great.' I was honored."
On June 12, Crosby held the Stanley Cup aloft at Jose Louis Arena for 35 seconds. On Wednesday, he carried the Olympic Torch -- two inches longer but 32 pounds lighter than the Cup -- for three minutes.
Crosby said the experience of carrying the Torch is "right there" with any of the individual honors he has won. Though the time actually carrying the torch was short, he said it was an experience he'll remember for the rest of his life.
"For one thing, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity," Crosby said.
It was Day 20 of the torch's 106-day journey that began on Oct. 30 and continues until Feb. 12, 2010.
An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people of all ages lined the streets of Halifax in hopes of catching a quick glimpse of their hometown hero. Crosby did not make his appearance until just before 7 p.m. -- but thousands of people had already started filling the streets two hours earlier. The outpouring of affection resembled the scene from this past August, when a similar crowd honored their local Cup hero.
"You look at people out there, you see the signs, the excitement and things like that and like I said, you never dream of carrying the torch. For me, that wasn't something that I ever thought would be a possibility, so when Bell came and said would you like to participate in this, I said 'yes, it'd be great.' I was honored." - Sidney Crosby
The Olympics bring together Canadians from coast to coast and it was evident that the love affair that Nova Scotians have with No. 87 deepened. Many people wore Team Canada jerseys as well as Olympic apparel and waved both Canadian and Nova Scotian flags. Young boys dressed in Crosby jerseys looked on as their idol ran by with the torch.
Crosby joins Penguins owner and former NHL great Mario Lemieux as the only two NHL players who have carried the Olympic Torch while still active. Lemieux carried it through suburban Pittsburgh on Dec. 20, 2001, and then went on to lead Team Canada to their first gold medal in 50 years in Salt Lake City three months later.
"Yeah, last night he actually mentioned that he carried it in Pittsburgh," Crosby said of Lemieux. "He told me that he still had his suit. I didn't ask to look at it but I'm sure it's a nice one. I think it's really neat and we feel pretty lucky to have that opportunity."
Canadians hope Crosby will be able to bring home a gold medal just like he brought home the Stanley Cup. It is as though he is carrying the hopes of more than 30 million Canadians on his shoulders but he says that it is not just about him.
"It's not just about me carrying the torch or another person. This is a celebration of the whole country, so just to be a part of that I feel so honored," he said. "Whether I was playing hockey or whether I was somewhere here locally who just got the chance to do it. I think we can all say that it is a tremendous opportunity and we're proud to be able to do it."-- Erin Meagher - NHL.com contributor