At no point this season will Sidney Crosby not wear a “C.”
Crosby, the Penguins captain, will fill that role for Canada’s men’s ice hockey squad at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, next month. Hockey Canada announced Crosby’s captaincy Sunday morning.
Crosby, 26, scored the golden goal for Canada at its Vancouver Games four years ago, beating United States’ goalie Ryan Miller in overtime.
That might have counted for something on this topic.
Surely, though, Canada did not lack qualified candidates to captain its Olympic squad. That list probably started with Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, a two-time Stanley Cup captain for the Blackhawks and the consensus best player for Canada at the Vancouver Games.
However, and this is a not an objective view, Crosby most deserved the “C.”
Unlike, well, anybody, he has carried the flag for this sport over the last 10 years. It was his fresh face the NHL banked on after becoming the first league to lose an entire season (2004-05) because of a labor dispute.
The narrative in and around Pittsburgh is that Crosby’s arrival changed everything, including the Penguins’ push for new arena funding that was going nowhere. By his second season, he was on his way to a scoring title and MVP, the Penguins were headed for the playoffs, Mellon Arena was packed and TV ratings were up – heck, even former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell acknowledged that was a lot of momentum to argue against state and local financial help for a new hockey arena in Pittsburgh.
Consol Energy Center, as Mario Lemieux once said, should be considered “the House Sid Got Built.”
Crosby did not build the NHL, but he has played a significant role in getting it mainstream attention in the United States.
The Penguins were picked for the first Winter Classic for a reason.
The Penguins are playing in a third outdoors game for a reason.
The Penguins are regulars on NBC national broadcasts for a reason.
The Penguins are a huge story when they do not win the Stanley Cup for a reason.
The Penguins have highlights shown on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” for a reason.
Most hockey fans have a polarizing view of the Penguins for a reason.
Crosby is the biggest star in Penguins history.
He might be the biggest start in NHL history.
The league is more prominent now than ever because professional sports are a bigger business now compared to when Wayne Gretzky and Lemieux starred.
Crosby has been the face of NHL business for nine seasons.
How big is Crosby’s reach?
Well, do a Google search on his surname and “concussion,” but be prepared to spend weeks reading articles on that topic.
If all of this seems a bit over the top – well, ask a Canadian about Crosby. His name is the one among hockey players that a casual U.S. sports fan probably knows, but in his home and native land Crosby is part of popular culture.
In Canada, Crosby is Peyton Manning in terms of how he is marketed and his profile. (Hey, Canadians do not see cardboard cutouts of Drake at Tim Horton’s.)
Unlike Manning, who does not play an Olympic sport, Crosby produced a moment that will live forever for his country. He was a young, vibrant history maker on that day – and hi-def footage of that golden goal will forever keep Crosby looking that way to Canadian hockey fans.
The Olympics – that one moment – carried Crosby from “Kid” to icon.
It also guaranteed he would be captain for Canada’s next Olympic squad.
How could he not?
Think of hockey and Canada and what you know.
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Be EXCELLENT to each other,