At one point during a drill featuring puck control in front of the net at the Penguins’ up-tempo practice Monday in Cranberry, Sidney Crosby deftly dodged fellow center Riley Sheahan for several seconds – cutting, turning, guarding the disk as if it harbored the secret of the universe before sending a shot on goaltender Tristan Jarry.
Crosby was smiling the whole time. In fact, he grinned throughout the workout. He wasn’t showing up Sheahan (who, if you have been paying attention, has been raising eyebrows with his play lately). No, Crosby was just in his element, enjoying the game he loves on the ice with a team that is winning.
That’s quite a testament to Crosby’s nature because he shouldn’t have been there. The face of hockey should be in a time zone 14 hours ahead of Pittsburgh getting ready to suit up for Team Canada for his third Olympics (fourth, really; shame on Team Canada for leaving teenaged Crosby off the 2006 club).
Everyone whose interest in hockey isn’t crassly outweighed by a financial stake in the sport surely knows the NHL should have sent its players to PyeongChang, South Korea, for the 2018 Winter Games.
Yet, discussing it after practice based on several questions from Pittsburgh Hockey Now, Crosby couldn’t have been more honest and diplomatic about the NHL’s decision to block its players from participating in these Games.
“Once you find out you’re not going, you’re disappointed,” he said. “Now that the Olympics are here, you’re just anticipating the hockey starting and following like you would in Summer Olympics when you’re watching at home, cheering for Canada. That’s how it kind of develops, but I think once you start watching hockey games, I’m sure it will kind of sink in a bit more and the competitive side of you will want to be over there.”
The men’s hockey starts Wednesday.
Sidney Crosby, Diehard Olympics Fan
Crosby, who cemented his place in Canadian and hockey history by scoring the Golden Goal in overtime against the United States to clinch the gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, loves the Games. He and his teammates watched some knee-eating moguls skiing before practice.
He won’t avert his eyes just because of politics that kept him and so many other great players, including Russian Penguins teammate Evgeni Malkin, home.
“Absolutely, I’ll watch,” Crosby said. “I’ve been watching since Opening Ceremonies. As a Canadian, you’re pulling for all the Canadian athletes. It’s a great event. The whole Olympic experience was awesome the couple of times I got to experience it. It’s a little different watching, but that’s the way it is. You just turn the page, be a fan and cheer them on.”
What events does he like to watch? All of them. What would he like to try? Downhill skiing, although the responsible side of him pointed out that the risks are a little too much for him to give that a try while he’s still playing hockey.
“Literally, I can watch for hours. Doesn’t matter what it is,” he said.
Maybe Crosby should be seething. That’s just not his gig. He’s more likely to appreciate his past Olympic experiences and hopes there’s more in the future. “Hopefully, it changes for the next time,” Crosby said.
And there’s the Metropolitan Division race with the Penguins to keep him occupied. “There’s a lot of motivation here, that’s for sure,” he said.
No One Can Take Away 2010
At least hockey fans will always have 2010. His teammates at the time were so impressed and happy for him.
His first day back with the Penguins after he scored the Golden Goal, Crosby looked exhausted, and rightfully so. He went to practice at Southpointe, but he didn’t skate. Instead, he did a couple of standup TV interviews for who-knows-what networks. That’s a deserved maintenance day if there ever was one.
He later talked about being as prepared as possible for the Olympics, for NHL games or whatever life throws at you. He’s still taking that approach, apparently, and he has a hard time digesting the fact that Vancouver was eight years ago.
“Time’s gone by really fast,” he said. “That whole experience was incredible. The time since then has flown by.”
The Penguins, in general, are keyed up about the Olympics despite the absence of NHL players. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin said he’ll follow a couple of players he knows on Team USA and Team Canada, and he likes watching other events.
Coach Mike Sullivan, a Team USA assistant coach at the 2006 Torino Games, has a full schedule with his Penguins responsibilities but is squeezing out time to watch the PyeongChang Games.
“For sure, I’ll follow it. I think we all will,” Sullivan said. “Would we all like to be part of it? For sure. If you ask anybody associated with the game, the Olympics is a unique opportunity.
“I think we’re all proud of our own countries, and we all like to root for our own countries. I’m no different. For sure I’ll watch it from afar.”
As an American, he’s fully aware of what Crosby’s presence on Team Canada would mean. His absence, too.
“I think it gives the U.S. a better chance to win, I promise you that,” Sullivan said with a smile.