PITTSBURGH – Sidney Crosby‘s relentlessness stays intact 15 years in. Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan sees it day by day.
Each drill in observe, regardless of how routine. Each shift throughout a recreation, it doesn’t matter what the rating. The participant who has helped outline his group, his adopted metropolis and his sport for a era stays as dedicated to his craft as he was as a child in Canada firing puck after puck after puck into the dryer in his guardian’s basement in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
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Sullivan’s spent the final five-plus years marveling from behind the bench, grateful that the participant who gave him “nightmares” when Sullivan coached elsewhere is now sitting in entrance of him on the bench, setting a normal many emulate however few truly attain.
Crosby will cross one other milestone Saturday night time when he turns into the primary Penguin to play in 1,000 regular-season video games.
Greater than co-owner and Corridor of Famer Mario Lemieux. Greater than the ageless Jaromir Jagr. Greater than longtime teammate Evgeni Malkin or any of the a whole lot of others gamers who’ve handed by way of city during the last 53 years.
And at 33, Crosby isn’t coasting. There’s an opportunity he may not even be cresting.
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Fifteen video games into his sixteenth season, Crosby stays a power at each ends of the ice. One shift he’s redirecting a shot from teammate Kasperi Kapanen – as he did to present the Penguins a lead they wouldn’t relinquish on Thursday night time in opposition to the New York Islanders – the subsequent he’s backchecking like a rookie making an attempt to earn a spot on the roster, not a participant whose spot within the Corridor of Fame each time he decides to retire is already assured.
“He simply has an insatiable urge for food to be the very best and he desires to be the very best and he’s keen to place the time in and make the sacrifices to attempt to be the very best,” Sullivan mentioned Friday.
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And that’s the place Sullivan believes Crosby separates himself from most of his contemporaries.
“He’s not able to relinquish the very best participant within the recreation attribute or that he’s carried right here for a decade-plus,” Sullivan mentioned. “He’s an ultra-, ultra-competitive man. There’s a whole lot of guys that need to win, however there aren’t a whole lot of guys that need to do what it takes to win. There’s a whole lot of guys that need to be the very best, however they don’t need to do what it takes.”
Not Crosby. Each summer time is devoted to engaged on some side of his recreation he feels is missing. Each recreation is a chance to study. Each second within the locker room an opportunity to make newcomers really feel snug amid a star-laden roster, mentor youthful teammates or lead by instance. It’s just about been that means since he arrived in 2005, anointed because the saviour for a franchise in shambles earlier than he ever hopped over the boards for his first shift.
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But he’s not often handled his standing as a burden. If something, he believes he’s merely holding up his finish of the cut price. Requested if any of his first 999 video games stand out, and Crosby factors to an in any other case meaningless dwelling finale on the Civic Area as a rookie. Then 18 years outdated, he was chasing 100 factors. The still-rebuilding Penguins have been mired in final place within the Atlantic Division. The vibe within the enviornment that night time, nonetheless, felt as if there was way more at stake.
He racked up three assists to get to the century mark. Pittsburgh received its twenty second and closing recreation of a largely forgettable season.
“They didn’t actually have a cause to (create) an environment like that,” Crosby mentioned.
And but they did, partly as a present of respect to Crosby for his single-minded effort to re-establish the connection between the Penguins and a fan base that just about misplaced the group not lengthy earlier than his arrival.
As an alternative, Pittsburgh has turn into one of many league’s marquee organizations. One which’s seen Crosby settle for the Stanley Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman thrice and one which helped steer Crosby by way of the darkest interval of his profession.
A decade in the past, Crosby discovered himself at a crossroads when he absorbed a blindside hit from Washington’s David Steckel through the Winter Basic at Heinz Discipline on New Yr’s Day 2011. The concussion and its lingering results restricted him to only 22 video games over the subsequent 18 months. For a stretch, each step ahead was accompanied by a step backward. The concept of Crosby taking part in with regularity once more – not to mention attending to 1,000 video games – appeared inconceivable at finest.
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Nonetheless, regardless of the fixed setbacks, Crosby remained dedicated to each the brief recreation and the lengthy one.
“I feel if you’re form of in that state of affairs, you’re making an attempt to work at small steps and simply get again on the market and taking part in,” he mentioned. “However there’s greater objectives that you’ve and it’s clearly to play for a very long time … Making an attempt to visualise that, it helps encourage you and remind you of what you’re making an attempt to do.”
Particularly, make that chapter in his hockey life simply that, a chapter and never the top of the story. The collision with Steckel got here in Crosby’s 411th regular-season recreation. He’s performed 588 since, successful a scoring title, a purpose title, an MVP and a pair of Cups alongside the best way.
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As unlikely because it appeared a decade in the past that he’d get to 1,000, barring disaster he may play into his late-30s and possibly past. His present contract runs by way of 2025. He turns 38 that summer time. Crosby smiled when requested if he desires to comply with within the steps of former teammate Matt Cullen, who at 42 was the oldest participant within the league throughout his closing season in 2018-19. Whether or not he ever turns into achieves “grandpa” standing as Cullen did stays to be seen.
“I really feel good and I need to play so long as I can,” he mentioned.
Not simply play, however hold doing the issues – in each methods and small – which have been the hallmark of a profession outlined by a mixture of success, humility and a seemingly unmatched resilience.
“You don’t simply flip a swap and create the kind of legacy that he’s created,” Sullivan mentioned. “I don’t suppose he’s completed. I feel he’s bought a whole lot of hockey left to construct on the resume that he has.”
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