LONDON, Ont. -- Sidney Crosby is such a hot topic, the greatest coach in the history of hockey turned up at the Western Fair yesterday to watch the Rimouski Oceanic practise.
Scotty Bowman, owner of nine Stanley Cup rings, observed from the corner glass during the noon hour as Crosby and the Oceanic prepared for their Memorial Cup game tonight versus the Ottawa 67's (7, Sportsnet).
"He is a wonderful player," said Bowman, now a consultant with the Detroit Red Wings. "I think he deserves everything people say about him."
Bowman hasn't watched Crosby play live much, but has seen enough that he is reminded of one of his former players.
"Crosby makes a lot of plays, plus he can score," Bowman said. "He is a lot like (Mario) Lemieux that way. He could set up guys and he could score."
In the tournament opener against the London Knights, which the Oceanic lost in overtime, Crosby demonstrated he is exactly that kind of threat. Though there have been games this season when it seemed Crosby could produce goals at will, Ottawa goaltender Danny Battochio was relishing the opportunity to face Crosby tonight. Battochio was amazing with a record-setting 62-save performance in an overtime win against the Kelowna Rockets on Sunday.
"It's going to be a good memory for myself playing against the best player in the world at his age," Battochio said. "I know he's good and we're going to be watching out for him, but he has linemates who can put the puck in the net."
Crosby and Battochio had a mutual-admiration society thing going yesterday. Crosby was at the John Labatt Centre for the first two periods of Battochio's clinic against Kelowna.
"He looks like someone who does not give up and that is a good trait in a goalie," Crosby said. "It will take a second effort for us to beat him. We're going to make him work."
Another loss tonight would be disastrous for the Cup hopes of the Oceanic and Crosby, whose junior career, at the most, likely has just six days remaining.
"I think that's what we're looking at," Crosby said when asked if tonight represented a must-win for his team. "We want to play desperate. You can't look past Ottawa. If you (do), they're going to burn you and beat you."