Sidney Crosby and Connor Bedard on the eve of opening night


Before Sidney Crosby made his debut in 2005, he felt the weight of the NHL on his shoulders. The league is coming to the end of a year-long hiatus. The Pittsburgh Penguins, the team that drafted him No. 1 overall, are in jeopardy and are considering a move. The hype surrounding 18-year-old Crosby is insane. He was already a hockey icon before ever stepping onto an NHL ice.

When Crosby got home from his first NHL morning skate, he did something he rarely does: He blew his pregame nap.

“I didn’t sleep at all,” Crosby said during an interview during the NHL media tour in Las Vegas last month. “Like, you’re almost there and you’re so excited, anxious, nervous. You feel all these different emotions. Nothing can prepare you for this. You don’t know what’s going to happen. (Media)) scrums, The build-up and all the things that lead up to it, and you haven’t played a game yet. So you almost feel like you shouldn’t talk about it because you haven’t played yet. And knowing your family is going to get there, as well as leading up to you playing No. 1 Everything about a game, you have all these snapshots going through your mind.”

Game 1 didn’t go the way Crosby imagined. The Devils won 5-1. Crosby assisted on Pittsburgh’s lone goal, the first of his 102 points in his rookie season, the start of a career that exceeded all expectations. Now, at age 36, with three Stanley Cups and two Hart Trophies under his belt and on the verge of cracking the top 10 in NHL scoring, he can reminisce.

“Trying to figure it all out, you’re young and you haven’t been through anything like this,” Crosby said. “Looking back, I think it was a fun experience. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just very unique.”

Crosby’s Season 19 In the league, he will start with the same level of cheers – for his opponents. The Penguins will face the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, /+), with No. 1 overall pick Connor Bedard designated as the league’s next representative. Sid the Kid has grown into a role as he’s grown older, and now faces off against the kids who grew up idolizing him.

Crosby feels comfortable enough taking on the role of mentor. In Las Vegas, Crosby agreed to sit with Bedard for the first part of the media interview — sharing some insights while also allowing the teen to learn by example.

Crosby has two suggestions: Try to enjoy the experience. And learn when to say no.

“New things come out of the ice, whether it’s the media or the commitment that comes with it. I think he’s going to figure it out, but it’s hard to say no at the beginning. You try to keep the balance, at some point , you might get tired, or you might lose something,” Crosby said. “There’s going to be a lot of demands on the ice. There’s going to be high enough expectations when it comes to being on the ice.”

It’s already been an eye-opener for Bader, who told before arriving at training camp: “I mean, if I were a fan, I would be sick of myself. I think there’s just too much.” Me. “

But the rookie is taking notes from Crosby on how to handle the extra attention.

“He talked to everyone he passed and spent time with everyone,” Bedard said. “He was the pinnacle of self-expression. Of course, on the ice everyone knew how great he was. But I think on the ice And the way he handles things is equally special.

“I mean, of course I wanted to ask him a lot of questions. But you don’t want to be too annoying. And (so I asked him) just some simple questions about the league. Nothing really crazy.”

Crosby was impressed by every aspect of the Bedard game, starting with the teenager’s shooting. Crosby also noted the competitiveness of the Blackhawks’ rookies. “You can see when the stakes are high,” Crosby said. “He’s always raising his game.”

Crosby kept his advice strictly confidential. Because if there’s one thing you need to know about Crosby in this iteration: He’s never wanted to win more.

penguin missed Crosby was irritated by last season’s first playoff appearance in 17 years. People close to the Penguins captain said he never talked about the silver lining of a long summer and more recovery time. It’s just about finding ways to improve.

“When it comes to a lot of different skills, it’s a constant learning process,” Crosby said. “For whatever reason, whether it’s you or the way things happen, the things you do well one year may not be as easy the next. So, recognize those things and don’t do them when they don’t. Being too hard on myself doesn’t go well because I know it’s a process. It’s a long season. And that takes experience.”

Like the advice he gave Bedard, Crosby has found what works for him over the years. The NHL’s annual player media tour is partly due to Crosby. He wanted to do less off-ice activities during training camp, so the league and Crosby’s camp brainstormed a one-stop event to save him more time.

This is a collaboration between the league and Crosby’s camp. Star Crosby has participated in this event in September for 16 consecutive years, and it is not uncommon for other star players to participate in this event in any year.

Crosby also held an invitation-only late-offseason training camp for a handful of players at Vail for several years. Crosby loves Colorado’s climbs, where he can test himself at altitude. Although Crosby now attends BioSteel camp, because that’s where his long-time coach Andy O’Brien is, he is considering reinstating Vail camp in the future.

Crosby has been consistent since his rookie season. He was a high-scoring player every season during his 18-year career. His faceoff percentage over his first two seasons (51.36%) was nearly identical to his past two seasons (52.73%). Crosby saw more faceoffs than any other player in the NHL last season.

In some ways, he’s gotten better with age. Crosby has scored more game-winning goals (18) in the past two seasons than in any other two years of his career.

But Crosby was also forced to adapt because he lost some of his agility as he aged. Over the past few years, Crosby has relied more on his hockey IQ—finding “quiet spaces” where the puck is. But he won’t cheat because it offends him. Instead, Crosby focused on becoming more defensively responsible. The center finished in the top five of the Selke Cup for the first time in his age-31 season.

Crosby has two seasons left on his contract. People close to Crosby say that while he is curious about many things, he never talks about what he wants to do in retirement. He was too focused on what was in front of him.

“I think when you stop having fun, that’s probably the time,” Crosby said. “So, I’m still having fun and having different challenges, different motivations. When the spark isn’t there, the fire isn’t burning, then it’s probably time to put it away.”

Crosby is sure of one thing: how he wants people to remember him.

“Just because I compete hard, I’m a good teammate, reliable every night, a guy who doesn’t take that for granted,” Crosby said. “I think you want to be known as a winner. When the stakes are high, you show up and are at your best.”

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