CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. — In-season after a tough loss certainly would not be the proper moment, but occasionally when the time feels right it’s enlightening to pick Sidney Crosby’s brain about various things not necessarily specific to hockey.
Crosby participated an informal practice Wednesday with 13 Pittsburgh Penguins teammates at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. The way he glided around the ice, taking the drills seriously yet smiling and pretty obviously having a blast, and then his upbeat demeanor when he met with local reporters for the first time since the offseason started, made the timing perfect for a little delve into a fun off-topic.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now set out to discover what Crosby takes away from the times he has gotten a chance to visit non-hockey big-time venues or spend time with top athletes from other sports.
This on the heels of a summer when social media informed us that Crosby spent time in Europe, skating with a hockey team in Switzerland and spending time at the All England Club just before Wimbleon. He got a tour of the famous tennis facility from Russian star Maria Sharapova and got to practice some with American pro John Isner.
PHN also pointed out that Crosby once hit a home run at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, home of the Pirates, and threw a pregame first pitch when the Penguins took the Stanley Cup to the ballpark.
To set the lighthearted tone, PHN framed the question by saying Crosby had “purportedly thrown a strike” on that first pitch.
“Purportedly!?” Crosby shot back, grinning. “It was right down the pipe.”
Yes, it was, but the topic was successfully broached. And, potentially, radio stations and other outlets got a fine, fun sound bite to keep on file.
Although it was hockey-related, Crosby included a stop in Switzerland on his summer trip in the conversation. “I went to Davos and got to skate at the old rink there that they have the Spengler Cup (international tournament),” he said. “That was pretty cool.”
As far as comparing such cross-sports ventures, Crosby had a hard time ranking them.
“Wimbledon sticks out. Going to PNC Park. All those things are unique in their own way. Playing hockey gives you that opportunity to meet other athletes and experience different things, so I always try to take that opportunity to do that, but I would just say that whenever you get the opportunity to do that, you try to take advantage of it.”
Looking to narrow the scope of the conversation, PHN asked Crosby to compare that home run and practicing with Isner.
“They’re different, but they’re both really cool,” Crosby said, adding of the 6-foot-10 Isner, “He’s got a pretty heavy serve, so just being able to stand behind that was cool.”
Isner, by the way, told reporters that Crosby seemed nervous but had a good forehand when he loosened up. He also raved about Crosby’s lower-body strength and indicated they had compared training philosophies.
An Overseas Getaway
Crosby apparently took off for Europe within a couple weeks after the Penguins lost to Washington in the second round of the playoffs – he said he watched the conference finals but was away during the final – with glimpses of his trip getting out through the aforementioned social media.
When those pictures were mentioned to Crosby Wednesday, he winced.
“I guess. I don’t see where the pictures are or what they are,” he said. “I don’t want to know, to be honest. There’s a lot of things going through my mind right now.”
He relaxed when it was explained the photos were of him and Sharapova or him and a Swiss hockey team.
After the Penguins won the Cup in 2016 and ’17, Crosby said the longer offseason his year allowed him to seek out extra rest and relaxation, he headed overseas, where he only occasionally got recognized.
“I was basically just sightseeing,” he said. “Got to do some pretty cool stuff, get away a little bit. It was the first time in a couple summers I was able to go on a vacation, it felt like. It was nice to get away and see a different part of the world and unwind a bit. I bounced around Europe for a bit. I went to Spain and Austria and Germany and different (places). You’d come across hockey fans or hockey players in different spots, but for the most part was able to get around pretty easily.
“Just to sightsee and be a tourist, really. I enjoy doing that, and then I was excited to get back and get ready and start training again.”
With training camp set to open next week, Crosby not only seemed relaxed and refreshed, but ready to dive back in to hockey and help the Penguins chase their third Cup in four years and fourth under his guidance as team captain.
“It’s good to get a full summer in and train,” he said. “Probably more mentally than anything, though, coming in fresh. Knowing that you lost the year before, and you want to prove something.
“Kind of a typical summer, one that you weren’t used to having when you look back at the last few summers, so it was nice to get that in. I’d love to play until June every year, but that wasn’t the case. It was a pretty standard summer as far as getting ready.”
Below, Crosby talks about adding Jack Johnson and Matt Cullen: