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NHL season starts with old ‘kids’ vs. new kids: Sidney Crosby vs. Connor Bedard


Track and field team has live coverage Connor Bedard‘s debut and Blackhawks vs Penguins pair

Connor Bedard wondered, but he didn’t know either.

He’s trying not to get ahead of his NHL career, but the release of the 2023-24 schedule is tempting.

From the moment the Chicago Blackhawks won the NHL Draft Lottery in May, there was no question that Bedard would be the No. 1 pick and that he would be in the Blackhawks’ opening lineup. But Bedard never allowed himself to make these assumptions. He addressed questions surrounding the Blackhawks before the draft. Once that became a reality, he started acting like his NHL roster spot wasn’t guaranteed. He even pushed to play in a two-game showcase with other Blackhawks rookies. The Blackhawks allowed him to play in just one game.

As talented as Bedard is – he’s been considered one of the NHL’s next generation talents since he was 14 – what he wants most is to be treated like everyone else.

Which brings us back to the 2023-24 schedule. Bedard, who was undrafted when the schedule was released on June 27, isn’t entirely sure when he first saw the schedule. But he soon found out the Blackhawks would be playing the Penguins in Pittsburgh, which meant he would be making his NHL debut playing his favorite childhood player, Sidney Crosby.

“I try not to look at the schedule,” Bedard said in late June. “Man, if I can get the team here in October… that would be unbelievable. It’s still a while away, it’s a bit of a dream right now, but hopefully it will happen.”

Well, here it is now.

Of course, Bedard made the NHL roster, with the Blackhawks and Penguins opening the season on Tuesday night. Whether Bedard and Crosby take the ice for their first games will ultimately be decided by the two coaches, but they likely understand the gravity of the moment.

The game may be Blackhawks vs. Penguins, but this moment is all about Bedard and Crosby.

As a child, Bedard was drawn to Crosby for the same reasons as most of his peers. Since entering the league in 2005, Crosby has been considered the best player in the league. “Sid the Kid” was the last 18-year-old rookie to score 100 points.

“I know (Bedard) loves him. Who wouldn’t?” Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson said after a recent practice. “I’m a Sidney Crosby fan, too. “

Ray Ferraro, who will host Tuesday’s opener for , lives in Vancouver and has watched Bedard up close for 10 years. The significance of the rookie’s first appearance against one of the greatest players in modern football has not gone unnoticed.

“The fact that they met in Conner’s first game, I was excited to be there,” said Ferraro, a 21-year NHL veteran. “I had this image in my mind of the two of them facing off and the overhead camera capturing their picture and recording it in history.”

Crosby’s ability stood out to the young Bedard, but as Bedard began to be heralded as the next great player, he also began to recognize how Crosby handled everything.

“He’s been one of the best players in the league, if not the best, for a long time,” Bedard said. “I also admire the way he carries himself off the ice.”

Bedard’s game is largely his own, but there are some identifiable elements that echo Crosby’s.

“When he’s down low, he’s going to throw off his teammates, and he’s so strong with the puck, and I think that’s where you can see some similarities,” Richardson said. “I think the rest of his game is his own individual style. He’s a little different than Crosby, just a little different in size and the way he skates. I think when one-on-one in the post, spinning and being able to maintain puck control and body control It’s even better when it’s there. It’s very similar there.”

Connor Bedard said he appreciates Sidney Crosby’s play, but he also appreciates what he does on the ice. (Patrick Smith/)

While most of the attention has been on Bedard’s performance against Crosby, the comparison between the Blackhawks and Penguins in the Stanley Cup race is worth noting.

Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson plans to streamline the Blackhawks as much as possible, which is largely based on drafting guys like Bedard.

Of course, the hope for Davidson, and Blackhawks fans as a whole, is to draft Bedard, but a lot of things have to fall into place.

However, the Blackhawks were slightly ahead of their game last season while other teams struggled. That leaves Chicago with the third-worst record in the NHL and an 11.5 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick — along with Bedard. But the lottery favors the Blackhawks.

Bedard won’t solve all of Chicago’s problems (the Blackhawks haven’t made the traditional playoffs since 2017). But he’s a big part of what Davidson is building.

Bedard is one of the Blackhawks’ five first-round picks over the past two years, and Davidson, who was named permanent general manager in March 2022, has four other first-round picks over the next two years. This season’s roster is built to support Bedard and other young players, but winning still isn’t Davidson’s priority. The Blackhawks are expected to be a lottery team again. The reality is that they probably won’t make the playoffs again for a few years and won’t be a Stanley Cup contender again for even longer.

The Penguins, on the other hand, are exhausting every avenue to expand their status as one of the flagship teams of the Cap era, and are doing so with their traditional core.

Last season, Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Letang (the latter two holding new extensions) failed to extend the franchise’s best playoff record to 17 seasons . But with the hiring of former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas this offseason, the Penguins are adding more veterans to what is already the NHL’s oldest franchise, especially three-time Norris. Cup defender Erik Karlsson.

Crosby is the only player in NHL history besides Wayne Gretzky to average points per game for 18 consecutive seasons. At 36, his career is coming to an end, but he’s still one of three active players to win the Stanley Cup.

Dubbed “Next” by Wayne Gretzky long before his first NHL practice, Crosby has become the closest any player has come to fulfilling that prophecy.

Even so, it was Alex Ovechkin, not Crosby, who won the Calder Rookie of the Year Award in their first season (2005-06). Crosby won his first Art Ross and Hart Trophies the next season, led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Finals the following season and lifted the trophy for the first time in his career four years later. .

“When you look back at his entire career, not just in Pittsburgh but globally and everything he’s done to bring attention to our sport, he’s basically been an ambassador, and I think, He’s the best player — I don’t think you can overstate his greatness,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

“Everything Sid does is self-explanatory. But what I love most is that in his mind, there’s more to do.”

What’s left?

“Cup, of course,” Malkin said. “One more for Sid. One more for us.”

The Penguins are rebuilding as far as they can go, and Crosby is still performing well entering his 19th season, making the decision easier for him.

Crosby has gone through more changes in the past six months than at any other time in his Hall of Fame career: missing the playoffs, a new front office, new teammates and a redesigned offseason training regimen. One thing hasn’t changed: his desire to win a fourth championship.

“I just think that’s why you play,” he said. “When you’ve won a championship before, you want to win it more. We’ve always had that spirit – a commitment from the top to win. As a player, that’s all you can ask for.”

Chris Kunitz saw firsthand the pressure Crosby was under both on and off the ice in Pittsburgh. Kunitz was teammates with Crosby for nine seasons, mostly as linemates. Everything Crosby has been through, whether it’s autograph seekers or expectations of becoming the next great Penguin, has often been unforgiving.

Kunitz, now a player development consultant with the Blackhawks, knows this and is careful to avoid sweeping comparisons. Crosby was Crosby, and he earned that reputation. Bedard has yet to play in an NHL game, but already has a lot to deal with.

“I just don’t want to look too hard at Connor and put him next to a guy like Sid,” Kunitz said.

Few people truly understood what Bader was going through. There’s Crosby. Connor McDavid. Apart from them, not many current players entered the NHL with such high expectations at the age of 18.

Bedard has taken some advice from both men, attending BioSteel NHL training camps with McDavid this offseason and participating in NHL player media tours in Las Vegas with Crosby . Crosby and Bedard gathered for interviews with several media outlets.

Crosby has seen it all before. Demand for jerseys (the Blackhawks have sold thousands of No. 98 sweaters and merchandise sales have nearly doubled from this time last season), season-ticket boom (the Blackhawks’ season-ticket package sales have nearly doubled from last season, projected At least five sellouts this season) — and the pressure that comes with it.

“You can relate to what he’s going through and how he’s feeling,” Crosby said. “Everyone has their own personality. Everyone handles things differently. I don’t know everything that’s going on in his head, but I do know the situations and the challenges and everything that goes with that.”

Bedard might be the last person to want to add something else to Crosby’s plate, but he knows Crosby is there if he’s needed.

“Obviously, I’m not going to bother him with too many things, but getting to know him a little bit, if he has some little thing here or there that works for me, he’s been through everything I’ve tried to go through in his career. Of course, “Bedard said. “Talking to him and other people who have been through similar things every day, it definitely helps.”

Crosby believes Bedard will settle down once Tuesday’s much-hyped opener is over. That’s what happened after Crosby’s rookie debut.

“I think that’s the best part,” Crosby said. “Once you finally get your first game, you’re going to a new building, you’re playing against different teams, and you’re going against the same guys you watched the year before. Getting up and playing these games — that’s the fun part. . Once you get into the habit, it’s great, it’s no longer based on hype or one or two games; it’s just fun. It becomes normal.”

Bedard has drawn comparisons to Crosby for years. More may be produced during Tuesday’s game. Bedard is honored and humbled by the experience, but he also wants people to know he’s going to be himself.

“I mean, obviously, I’m very honored to be able to put my name in the same sentence as people who have anything, but I’m Connor Bader and I’m no one else,” he said. “So I’m trying to create my own path and be the best player I can be instead of trying to compare myself to other people.”

(Illustration: Eamon Dalton/ Competitor. Photo: Michael Reeves/; Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via )

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