At a Pittsburgh Penguins practice one day last season at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, a couple older gentlemen happened to sit nearby. One kept identifying players and passing along various information to the other. At one point, he told his buddy about Sidney Crosby and his mom’s dryer, how Crosby used to shoot pucks at the appliance and how it got beat up even though Crosby was highly accurate. The gentleman even noted a very impressive shooting percent.
The buddies were veterans, and out of respect for that, no way was I going to interject myself into their conversation, but after that practice I had a chance to tell Crosby about it. He smiled but noted that he never shot pucks at the dryer. I told him I knew that, but the proliferation of the story, including the gentleman offering actual statistics, is what made it funny.
Back up a second. You read that right. Crosby never took aim at the family dryer growing up.
It’s timely to bring up the sports urban legend and do a little debunking because of two recent events.
At the NHL’s Fan Fair during All-Star weekend last month in San Jose, one of the displays allowed people to take shots on a dryer. The same weekend, a new, expanded hockey exhibit at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum within the Heinz History Center in the Strip District opened. One of the touted interactive displays is a modified version of the dryer game.
Here’s the real, unvarnished story:
The dryer, with its dings and dents, black scuff marks and broken knobs, is real. It has been on display at the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame in Halifax, Nova Scotia, close to Crosby’s native Cole Harbour. Growing up, Crosby spent hours in his basement shooting pucks. However, there was a net set up for him. That’s what he aimed for every time. Of those thousands and thousands of shots, some missed the net, and some of those misses hit the nearby dryer.
That’s not as fun a story as Crosby trying to shoot pucks into a dryer, but with folklore the truth often is not quite as entertaining as the popular version.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now circled back to Crosby last week and asked him if he thought the urban myth version of him and the dryer would ever die.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s not … It’s not what I expected, I guess, from the story. At the same time, if it’s not exactly right, it kind of ties it all in.”
It’s easy to agree. The dryer, and the tolerance of his mother, Trina, to put up with the damage done by those missed shots, is part of Crosby’s life story.
Although Crosby will tell you the accurate version if you ask him, he has never launched any sort of truth campaign to correct the masses who believe he shot pucks at that dryer. That’s just not his style.
You might remember this two-part Reebok ad with Crosby and good buddy/former teammate Max Talbot in a replica of his childhood basement, as well as Crosby’s parents.
If you pay attention, it is explained that the dryer got damaged by Crosby’s missed shots, and yet he and Talbot make a game of trying to hit the dryer.
Shortly after he was drafted first overall by the Penguins in 2005, Crosby was a guest on “The Tonight Show” when it was hosted by Jay Leno. Leno, or at least his producers, had heard the dryer story. Crosby relayed the full story, but when they brought a dryer on stage the baby-faced Crosby complied by shooting pucks at, and in, the dryer. Hey, he was barely 18. He wasn’t going to balk.
This seems to be the only full video of that guest appearance, with thanks to dailymotion.
Although he probably would never say it, Crosby likely is bothered by just one aspect of the popular version of the story. He takes his role model status with young fans seriously, and he probably cringes at the idea of kids thinking he was enough of a brat growing up that he would intentionally damage family property like a dryer by shooting pucks at it.
Overall, though, Crosby doesn’t sweat the mythologized version of the dryer story.
At the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, the newly expanded hockey section is called “It’s a Great Day for Hockey,” and the modified dryer exhibit isn’t open yet. Anne Madarasz, director of the sports museum, said it is part of the final area of the updated hockey area and probably will be open by March 1.
History Center president and CEO Andy Masich recently was on KDKA’s morning feature show, “Pittsburgh Today Live,” and noted that there is an interactive exhibit related to the time when Crosby took slapshots on his mom’s dryer. OK, so he fudged a bit on the details.
There isn’t the room or budget for the sports museum to build an actual little rink with a dryer, Madarasz said, so the exhibit is more of a cornhole game, where visitors will be able to toss bean bags toward three openings in a wall with a depiction of a dryer.
Madarasz said she understands the folklore version vs. the real story, but the exhibit was a fun thing to include in a section of the hockey area devoted to teaching visitors about scoring and hat tricks.
PHN suggested to Crosby that as long as the real story is out there somewhere, there’s no harm in the various interactive displays and games where fans can shot toward a dryer.
“Yeah, that makes sense,” Crosby said. “I’m not going to be too critical of a fun exhibit, but at the same time it’s definitely something when I think of it, I don’t necessarily think of it that way.
“It’s just one of those things that’s kind of grown. It’s like anything – you tell a story once and by the time it gets to a couple more people it’s changed. That’s just the way it works sometimes, but I’m glad people have fun with it.”
So are we.