COLE HARBOUR, Nova Scotia — The banner hangs above the ice surface at the Cole Harbour Place. One banner proclaims the childhood rink of Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon. The other banner, with a big No. 87, proclaims the Home of Sidney Crosby.
In front of a capacity crowd, the Penguins practiced on the rink where Crosby grew up. Chants and cheers began well before the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Crosby took the ice. The Tim Horton’s coffee chain sent their mascot, Happy, which was also the recipient of children’s chants.
However, they didn’t send coffee for the media.
It was a celebration of hockey as much as Crosby. It was a neighborhood gathering, even if most of the neighborhood couldn’t get tickets. On the small municipal rink with low ceilings and a giant mural of children in Maple Leafs and Canadiens sweaters playing pond hockey on a rink carved from the snow, it wasn’t hard to imagine a small 10-year-old Crosby outworking defenseman in the corner and banging his stick in frustration at a missed opportunity.
Or, defencemen since we’re in Nova Scotia.
The crowd stayed for the entire practice, as coach Mike Sullivan kept an uptempo pace to drills that focused on 5v5 play and breakouts. Hundreds stayed to watch the Penguins coaches, Evgeni Malkin, Crosby, and fellow Nova Scotia native Ryan Graves conduct a skills clinic, too.
Assistant coach Ty Hennes bellowed drills as he would at Penguins practice, to the chuckles of head coach Mike Sullivan and associate coach Todd Reirden. The players knelt around Sullivan to get their next orders.
There were no complaints.
They filled the time by chanting for Crosby.
“I mean, he’s the first one from (here) … that really had an impact on everybody. Sid was the first one to pave the way. The impact he’s had on guys like me,” Graves said. “Just to kind of show people. And I mean, we always dreamed it was possible but when you have someone that’s actually done it, it makes things a little bit more real, and you understand what they’re talking about. Just someone to root for.”
Oh, the hometown crowd was rooting for Sidney Crosby.
The chants have been going on for 20 minutes… pic.twitter.com/Hmu9ZJpT13
— Dan Kingerski (@TheDanKingerski) October 1, 2023
To the real task at hand, Sullivan appears to be giving a couple of players their chance to win jobs, too. Radim Zohorna skated on the Penguins line with Evgeni Malkin, and Vinnie Hinostroza is getting a shot with the fourth line.
Wednesday and Thursday, Alex Nylander had the spot beside Crosby.
Rickard Rakell – Sidney Crosby – Bryan Rust
Reilly Smith – Evgeni Malkin – Radim Zohorna
Matt Nieto – Lars Eller – Drew O’Connor
Vinnie Hinostroz – Noel Acciari – Jeff Carter
Austin Wagner rotated on the fourth line.
Marcus Pettersson – Erik Karlsson
Ryan Graves – Kris Letang
P.O Joseph Chad Ruhwedel.
Mark Friedman and Ryan Shea skated together.
Kris Letang has been Crosby’s teammate for 17 years. He, too, was impressed with the outpouring of adulation for Crosby.