Crosby has right stuff

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:59 AM ET

If this was the final episode of The Crosby Show on the World Junior Hockey Championship stage, you'd have trouble scripting a happier ending.

Playing in his second world junior tourney, Sidney Crosby left a lasting impression on and off the ice and went home with a gold medal hanging around his neck.

Patrolling the left wing on Canada's top line with Patrice Bergeron and Corey Perry, the 17-year-old phenom from Cole Harbour, N.S., put his skills on display, finishing the tournament with six goals and three assists for nine points.

He tied a Canadian world junior record for most power-play goals in a tournament with five, previously set by Eric Daze in 1995.

He showcased an unwavering work ethic, tremendous vision, a blistering shot and a passion to play in the big game.

But even more important than his eye-popping skills and incredible hockey sense is the way Crosby handles himself under the intense glare of the spotlight.

From the first day he arrived for Canada's evaluation camp in Winnipeg, Crosby was surrounded by a horde of media that only grew as the days and weeks wore on.

He took questions nearly every day -- either in a scrum or in 1-on-1 situations -- and whenever he responded, Crosby looked each questioner in the eyes and gave a genuine answer.

Most of the time Crosby had a smile on his face, his love of the game evident both on and off the ice.

Dealing with fans was no different as Crosby signed autographs and posed for pictures.

It was fitting that Wayne Gretzky was in attendance to witness Crosby's emergence on the world stage, since the Great One was and continues to be one of the game's best ambassadors.

Crosby does boast Gretzky-like vision but his style of play is more reminiscent of Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman and Colorado Avalanche forward Peter Forsberg.

Where Crosby most resembles Gretzky is in dealing with the media and the public.

SELLING THE GAME

The attention Crosby garners on and off the ice doesn't faze him and that bodes well since he'll need to be one of the guys selling the game for years to come.

For now, Crosby will return to the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL and try to help an underachieving team turn things around and reach the Memorial Cup in London, Ont.

Crosby is one of two Canadian players eligible to return for the 2006 event (Winnipegger Cam Barker is the other) in Vancouver, but their participation is likely linked to what happens with the NHL lockout.

What Crosby does next season is up in the air, but the options are limitless.

Conceivably, Crosby could return for a third season with the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL but that seems unlikely since he's dominated the competition at the Canadian Hockey League level during the past two seasons.

If the labour impasse continues, Crosby could explore options in Europe or fight for free agency after his 18th birthday (Aug. 7), turn pro and sign a contract with an AHL team.

How good would Crosby look in a Manitoba Moose uniform next season?

It's obviously a long shot, but Crosby's presence would allow the upper bowl of the MTS Centre to be open for all 40 home games in 2005-06.

Bringing one of hockey's rising stars to a great Canadian hockey market seems like an ideal marriage.

Imagine the possibilities.

Here's hoping Moose majority owner Mark Chipman has a telephone number for Crosby's agent Pat Brisson.

No matter what Crosby does next season, he's already got a gold and silver medal in his trophy case before he's even old enough to vote.

And he's got an engaging personality that can give fans some hope the future of the game is in good hands.


Videos

Photos