Penguins’ owner and icon Mario Lemiuex was asked after the game to go back to when he first met Sidney Crosby if he expected him to go down as an all-time great; to have the unbelievable career that’s had; and Lemiuex said absolutely. We all knew this guy was different; and that despite that insane expectations, he would go out and do exactly what he’s done. Maybe they did and maybe they didn’t. There have been plenty of others both before Crosby and after, that had insane expectations upon entering the league. But perhaps non so more than Sid. Maybe not Lemiuex himself.
Because from the very second Crosby came into the league, he was the next big thing… the next Mario, the next Gretzky… maybe better than both. And the insane thing is, he’s living up to that ridiculous hype.
At 29, and at the height of his powers, even after battling back from career-threatening concussion issues that cost him huge parts of two seasons — we are watching one of the greatest champions to ever play the game. And who’s to say whether or not he’s even played his best hockey yet.
But he’s played well enough to go rip back to back titles. Back to back Conn Smythes. Three Stanley Cups total. Two Olympic Golds. A World Junior Championship. A champion at virtually very single level.
And as we watch the NHL welcome in a new generation of talent — with kids that are bigger, stronger and faster, there’s Crosby — the regular season leader in goals, carrying his team to yet another title — doing it after bouncing back from yet another concussion mid-playoff run against Washington…, playing through other aches and pains with no complaint, centering a line with two kids surrounding him –and a roster that doesn’t have the same talent as some of the other elite units…, but does have Sid. And when you have the best player in the world, and arguably the best leader in the game, this is the result.
And that’s what Sid is. Not just an all-time great player. But one of the greatest leaders this sport has ever seen. A once-in-a-generation leader. A guy who doesn’t blink when the Pens get pushed to 7 games TWICE. A guy who was named an alternate captain at age 18. And then became the youngest captain in NHL history at 19. Getting that C on your sweater at any age is one of the biggest honors and responsibilities in all of sports. And this guy was rocking one at 19??! Shut it down right now, and this guy goes right into Hall of Fame and goes down as one of the all-time greats. But he’s not. Hell, the guy still isn’t even 30 yet!
Nothing ever lives up to the hype. And virtually no one else has ever been hyped the way this guy was. But he not only lived up to it but he smashed it.
The Penguins are tough as hell. Tough as hell. And it all starts with the Captain.