COLUMN: The Man Sidney Crosby Has Become

On his 30th birthday, Sidney Crosby can reflect on his NHL career and probably be pretty proud of it. He’s accomplished things in his career that few other players have ever, or may ever, accomplish. 

As someone who just celebrated (and I use that term losely) this milestone birthday five days ago, it feels like the end of an era of your life. You could easily take a second  or two to reflect on what you’ve done with the first 30 years of your life. 

With the hopes of a hockey organization and an entire city weighing on his 18 year-old shoulders, Crosby had to live up to the hype to be the second savior this franchise needed. 

And if there’s any indication of who Sid is, he’s probably not spending much time reflecting on the past 12 years of his hockey career, rather, he’s probably focusing on the upcoming season and making sure the Stanley Cup stays in Pittsburgh for at least another year. So, we’ll reflect for you, Sid.

Crosby is a polarizing figure in hockey. Few can argue that he’s not the best player in the world. As a matter of fact, the hype has been there since he was dubbed “The Next One,” in tribute to Wayne Gretzky as “The Great One.” When you’re looked at as the next Gretzky or Mario Lemieux, that’s a standard that is about as improbable as it can get. For most, it is impossible. You’re talking about the player who’s set records that will never be broken, especially in the era of the NHL we are in now.

For Sid, he wanted to establish his own legacy, and that’s a difficult thing when you start your career with the Penguins, a team in which Lemieux played for, owns, and oh yeah, you’re now living in his house. He could’ve easily been tucked away in Lemieux’s shadow, but that didn’t happen. 

After Sid had been in the league for a few years, there was a big divide among fans. You either loved him or you hated him. Funny how that happens with the greatest players. I think that is the measuring stick for whether a player is great or not; if there’s a general consensus of either love or hate with the guy and no in between. People who loved him praised him for his talent, his abilities, and his on-ice highlight reels. People who hated him wanted to say he’s a crybaby or a diver; that he’s always whining to the refs and through that, he always gets the calls from officials because he’s the league’s poster boy.

So instead of people giving the man a chance to create his own legacy and watch him grow and mature on and off the ice, people have stuck with the stereotype that people gave him when he was essentially still a teenager. They didn’t watch him be a central piece in getting the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Final in 2008, or get them back there the following year and win it all. They didn’t bother empathizing with him when David Steckl took more than a season away from Crosby with one blow to the head in the Winter Classic; at a time when Sid was finding the best form of his career up until that point. They didn’t watch him battle back from lingering concussion-like symptoms and nerve damage to get back to playing this violent sport at an elite level again. And then, they did watch, talk, and tweeted when Crosby seemed to lose his game under Mike Johnston‘s coaching regime.

And now under Mike Sullivan, Crosby has not only found elite form again, he’s at the best he’s ever been. It’s the reason why the Penguins have won back-to-back Stanley Cups. It’s not an accident that Crosby won the Conn Smythe in both Cup runs. You see, for the most part, the hockey world doesn’t look at Crosby like the average hockey fan does, with this stereotype that he’s a crybaby and a whiner. They know that version of Sid is long gone. That’s when he was Sid the Kid. Now, he’s jut Sidney Crosby: the best player in the world. At what he’s accomplished by age 30, it’s hard to find a sound argument against that. There’s few players that are hyped up so much and live up to it. He is in that select few. And he’s not done yet.

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