Sidney Crosby will seriously consider playing in Europe or the renewed World Hockey Association next season but the 17-year-old phenom hopes he doesn't have to decide to take one over the other.
Crosby, at the Air Canada Centre yesterday for a news conference announcing that he has signed a sponsorship deal with Reebok, prefers the NHL and NHL Players' Association arrive at a new collective bargaining agreement and hold a draft as it would in any other year.
"For sure, I am going to think about the WHA and Europe," Crosby said. "(But) I would love (a draft). It's every player's dream to get drafted into the NHL and it is no different for me. I'm optimistic. I think (a draft) going to happen."
And unlike some who have come before him, for example, Eric Lindros, Crosby said he would "love to play anywhere." There's no chance Crosby, who acknowledged he is a Montreal Canadiens fan, would be a replacement player if that's the route NHL owners take for training camps in September.
"I would not play in a replacement league," Crosby said. "The NHL is the NHL for a reason. It's the best league in the world and with replacement players, it would not be. The NHL with real NHL players is where I want to be."
NO. 1 PICK
Not that Crosby, who will be the No. 1 pick in the next entry draft, will be in financial trouble if he is not playing in the NHL in October. A source said Crosby's parents, Troy and Trina, wouldn't have to work another day if they didn't want to given the contract Crosby signed with Reebok. It's a five-year, multimillion-dollar deal.
"It's a deal that takes us over the long term and ultimately we expect it to last for all of Sidney's career," Matt O'Toole, president and CEO of The Hockey Company, a Reebok subsidiary, said.
Crosby, who will be dressed head to toe in Rbk Hockey gear, joins such NHL stars as Mike Modano, Chris Pronger and close friend Patrice Bergeron as Reebok clients. Sources indicated Crosby will be the highest paid among them by Reebok.
Crosby is the top scorer in major junior hockey in Canada, with 58 goals and 87 assists in 57 games for the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
It's Crosby's second season in the QMJHL, and it should be his last. QMJHL commissioner Gilles Courteau has argued Crosby has a standard player contract to play in the QMJHL next season if there is no new CBA, but Crosby's agent, Pat Brisson, disagrees.
"It's illogical to think that he would go back to Rimouski," Brisson said. "It's a CHL contract where if an 18-year-old goes to a professional level, it should be the NHL. But there is no CBA at this point, so there is no agreement between the NHL and the CHL."
Brisson added that "you always want free agency as much as possible. Right now I don't think (Crosby's situation is headed for the courts). If we are still in the same position in November, I am not the only one who is going to try to be creative."
Said CHL president David Branch: "If there is no NHL, it behooves all of us to sit down with Sidney and discuss his options. But at the end of the day, common sense must be part of the equation."