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Penguins’ Crosby ‘Cooley’ Recounts Connection to Touted Rookie



Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins

The story linking Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Arizona Coyotes rookie center Logan Cooley has leaked out already. OK, more than leaked.

But now the two will face each other for the first time when the teams meet Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena. So it seemed like the right time to ask Crosby about Cooley, a top prospect, and the superstar obliged with an interview ranging from playful to highly complimentary.

When Cooley, a native of the Pittsburgh suburb of West Mifflin, was 5, he was part of the inaugural class of kids who participated in the Sidney Crosby Little Penguins program, which provides youngsters with full hockey gear and 10 on-ice learning sessions.

Now 19, Cooley is the first “graduate” of that learn-to-play program to make it to the NHL

“I mean, I’ve been reminded of that a few times now,” Crosby said with a grin.

The Pittsburgh area has grown into, maybe not a hotbed of hockey talent, but a place that produces some NHL players. No others currently or previously in the league have been young enough to come through the Little Penguins sessions.

“It’s obviously pretty cool,” Crosby said of Cooley’s first exposure to hockey. “When we started doing that, it wasn’t necessarily to have kids come out of it and make the NHL; it was more just to introduce them to the game.”

Cooley was born a year before Crosby, 36, was drafted. When it was lightheartedly pointed out that it indicated some longevity on Crosby’s part that he is able to share NHL ice with someone from his kids’ program, he responded, “That’s a nice way of putting it. Thank you.”

Cooley was taken third overall by Arizona in the 2022 draft. He spent a season at the University of Minnesota, then turned pro and signed with the Coyotes during the offseason.

In 26 games, the rookie has three goals, 14 points. Want to see his skill?

Cooley has a way to go if he wants to come close to matching Crosby’s 565 goals, 1,529 points and 1,216 games in the NHL, but he is off to a decent start coming into a game in his hometown.

While Cooley has expressed gratitude for getting his start in Crosby’s program and complimented Crosby’s game, he has a different NHL role model.

Cooley grew up idolizing sniper Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Captials. That’s right. One of Crosby and the Penguins’ biggest rivals. And that’s despite Cooley being a left-shot center like Crosby. Ovechkin is a right-shot winger.

Crosby had heard that before, too, and reminding him of it brought an even bigger smile.

“Hey, I respect his loyalty,” Crosby said, nearly chuckling. “He’s holding strong on that. I don’t mind that. There’s worse guys you can follow than Ovi.

“(Cooley) is a great player. He’s got an interesting mix of skills. He’s got a big shot, but he’s got really good hands. He skates well. I wouldn’t say he’s just a pure shooter. He can do a lot. So I can see why he likes Ovi, but I can also see other players kind of in his game, too.”

Perhaps even a little Sidney Crosby.

Like Crosby, who was taken first overall by the Penguins, before him, Cooley is finding his way in the NHL as a teenager.

“You put a lot of pressure on yourself, and when you come in highly touted like that, there’s a lot of expectations, but I think he’s handling it well, and all these guys that are coming in now, they seem like they’re ready. It doesn’t seem like a massive jump at all,” Crosby said.

But the jump from being a tyke just trying hockey to perhaps a candidate for the Calder Trophy?

“The fact that he started in it and now is playing at the level he’s playing at is pretty cool. Happy that’s the case,” Crosby said. “He looks like he’s playing some good hockey, so it’s good to see.”

Cooley was one of the lucky Little Penguins who got a chance to skate with Crosby, although he has said he was so young he doesn’t have a clear memory of that. Crosby still usually gets on the ice with some of each winter’s participants at some point every winter.

Crosby doubled down on not having any thoughts years ago that any of those enthusiastic little runny-nosed skaters might one day play at a high level. He just wanted them to have a chance to fall in love with the game the way he did.

“It honestly didn’t even cross my mind,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking that far ahead. I was more thinking just more the present and just trying to introduce as many kids to the game as possible, especially (ones) that might not have the chance to do it. That was more the mindset behind it.

“The program continued to grow. Every year it’s full. It’s great to see, and he’s quite the player.”