The Pittsburgh Penguins were hardly immune to the waves of emotion and disbelief that enveloped the sports world – heck, the entire world – when news broke about the helicopter crash that killed former NBA star Kobe Bryant and eight others, including his daughter, Gianna.
The Penguins just didn’t have a chance to react publicly since the tragedy Sunday in California because they were on a bye week. They resumed practice Thursday afternoon at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
Penguins center Sidney Crosby – a megastar in his sport, just as Bryant was — went through an emotional process that probably was like a lot of people’s.
He was eloquent in recounting it.
“I was shocked,” Crosby said. “I didn’t believe it when I first heard it. I spent a lot of time trying to search and find out if it was true. Once I found out it was true, it’s just heartbreaking for his family, for all the families involved.
“He inspired so many people. He’s a legend. You see the reaction and what he meant to people around the world. I feel for his family and all the families. It’s heartbreaking.”
Crosby has spent some time in his offseasons over the years skating in Los Angeles at the practice facility shared by the NHL’s Kings and the Lakers, with whom Bryant, who was 41, spent his entire NBA career. But Crosby said he never got a chance to meet Bryant.
Neither did Penguins defenseman Kris Letang.
“It’s a tragedy,” Letang said. “A guy that is, like, a legend – I don’t know how to describe it – in so many ways, but he was also a great individual that represented the game and his family really well.
“It’s tragic. It’s tragic also for the families that were also on board. They were all young people that had a life to live. It’s tough. It was tough to see what happened also with his daughter.”
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, known to be a basketball fan, did not speak with reporters Friday.