Sid eyes the prize

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

If Sidney Crosby were to close his eyes and daydream, he might envision lifting the Memorial Cup over his head on May 29.

But the biggest individual attraction for the 2005 tournament, which starts Saturday in London, is not looking that far ahead.

Crosby's Rimouski Oceanic and the Ontario Hockey League champion London Knights meet in the Cup opener Saturday night in a matchup many observers figure will be repeated in the final.

"I just want to go and play that first game," Crosby said yesterday. "(Winning the Memorial Cup) would be a great way to end the year, to accomplish that much in one season.

"But I'm not thinking about winning (the tournament) now, just the first game."

Crosby, the 17-year-old phenom, certainly does not need to win the Memorial Cup to have a sense of accomplishment this season.

There was a heap of attention thrown at the native of Cole Harbour, N.S., but never was there a hint of wilting. That is one aspect that helps make Crosby such a complete player -- he's a big name who comes to play in big games.

This past winter, Crosby had an integral role in Canada's first gold medal at the world junior since 1997 and, in March, signed a multi-year contract with Reebok.

The shoo-in No. 1 pick when the next NHL draft occurs, Crosby propelled the Oceanic to a 35-game unbeaten streak that is not officially recognized as a record by the Canadian Hockey League because it included seven playoff wins. In 13 playoff games, Crosby led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 31 points and won the Guy Lafleur Trophy as playoff MVP.

This after a regular (though it really was extraordinary) season in which Crosby had a league-high 168 points (66 goals and 102 assists) in 62 games.

The fact there was a greater spotlight on Crosby, partly because there was no NHL season, never fazed him.

If anything, he probably thrived on it. And that can't be good news for the Knights, Ottawa 67's and Kelowna Rockets at the Memorial Cup.

The buzz of anticipation certainly is there. Applications for media accreditation approached 300 yesterday.

"I know there is going to be a lot of media (in London), but I will handle the pressure when I need to," Crosby said.

"This is big, the Memorial Cup, and I want to be sure I am ready for it. The eyes were on me at the world junior and they have been there all season."

There is little opponents can do to shut him down. Limiting his chances, maybe, but completely neutralizing him?

Good luck. It's the same problem foes of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Eric Lindros had when they were in junior.

"You try not to get too worried about him and go out of your way, but at the same time his second and third efforts are almost more than his first effort," said Knights defenceman Danny Syvret, Crosby's teammate with the junior nats. "He's relentless. We just have to play a cautious game."

Crosby, who has been lining up at right wing, and linemates Dany Roussin and Marc-Antoine Pouliot combined for 398 points during the regular season, leaving the terrific trio 1-2-3 in QMJHL scoring.

Barring a decision to return to junior hockey next season -- one that would make no sense -- the 2005 Memorial Cup will mark Crosby's final chapter in major junior hockey after just two years with Rimouski.

But it has not yet hit him that the end of the junior portion of his career is imminent.

"I haven't been thinking about it a whole lot," Crosby said. "This tournament is going to be a tough test, and that's what I have been thinking about."


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