Crosby repeats as player of year

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

Sidney Crosby's parents may want to consider an addition to their modest pre-fabricated 1970s-style home in Cole Harbour, N.S.

A new house may even be needed to accommodate all the awards he'll win when he makes it to the NHL next season.

The Rimouski Oceanic forward was named Canadian Hockey League player of the year yesterday, making the 17-year-old is the first repeat winner since the award was established in 1974.

He beat out Corey Perry of the London Knights and Eric Fehr of the Brandon Wheat Kings.

The likes of Eric Lindros, Joe Sakic, Mario Lemieux and Pat Lafontaine are previous winners but none ever had as much of an impact on major junior hockey as Crosby did last season as a 16-year-old rookie. He was the CHL's top scorer and top rookie with 54 goals and 81 assists in 59 games.

He only got better this season, with 66 goals and 102 assists in 62 regular-season games. He scored or assisted on more than half the Oceanic's 333 goals.

"After last year -- I never would have expected to win it at 16 -- there was a little bit of pressure coming in at 17 with how I did," Crosby said. "I came into the season wanting to improve, but at the same time I didn't put pressure on myself to win it again.

"I'm a little older, a little more experienced. I don't think there was a whole lot that surprised me this year as it did at 16.

"So I think the biggest thing was having that experience. And as you get older, you get faster and stronger, and that's helped me this year, too."

Perry, who won the OHL scoring title and was runner-up to Crosby in the CHL with 47 goals and 130 points, took yesterday's news in stride after being a Canadian linemate at the world junior championship.

"Everyone knows what Sidney has done on and off the ice," Perry said.

"We became good friends and we were talking in here earlier and we were just like old friends away from the rink.

"He put up big numbers this year and he's handled himself quite well. What you see around here, with all the media attention he gets and the way he handles himself, is unbelievable. I don't know how he does it.

"The life of Sidney Crosby, I guess."

Crosby turns 18 in August and is the top-rated player for the next NHL draft. That won't happen until there's an end to the lockout.

But this tournament is probably the last fans will see of Crosby at this level, a young man who will stop on his way home from practice to join kids for road hockey.

"I just want to be known as a player who was honest every night, shows up every night, someone who never took anything for granted and just played for the love of the game," he said of the legacy he wants to leave major junior.

"I have a passion for the game and I try to show that every night I play."

Cole Harbour is classified as a neighbourhood in Halifax; the mayor of Halifax is the mayor of Cole Harbour. And until Crosby burst upon the scene as the game's next superstar, there were Halifax residents who didn't know Cole Harbour existed.

Crosby has put his community on the map. And yet, interview after interview, he conducts himself with the composure of a veteran and always puts his team first.

"I know I'm here to play hockey. It's been almost two years and we wanted to get here. So for me it's not hard to be composed. A lot of hard work has been put into getting here, so you must be focused and not waste it."

He has never counted his hockey awards.

"Hopefully, there's some room left. . . . I give them to my dad and (my parents) take care of it downstairs."

He was stumped for a moment when asked about his favorite award.

"That's tough. I'd have to say the world junior gold medal. Individual awards are nice but it's more special when you win as a team."

CANADIAN HOCKEY LEAGUE AWARDS

Top player, top scorer: Sidney Crosby, Rimouski Oceanic, 66 goals and 102 assists for 168 points in 62 regular-season games. He played on Canada's world junior gold-medal team and was the top-rated prospect for next NHL draft.

Rookie: Benoit Poulit, Sudbury Wolves. He led OHL rookies with 29 goals and 38 assists for 67 points in 67 games.

Defenceman: Danny Syvret, London Knights. Second-highest scoring defenceman in OHL with 23 goals and 69 points in 62 games. Led all CHL defenceman with a plus-70 rating and played on Canada's world junior gold-medal team.

Goalie: Jeff Glass, Kootenay Ice; 34-11-5, 1.76 goals-against average, .932 save percentage and eight shutouts in 51 games. He played on Canada's world junior gold-medal team.

Scholastic player: Gilbert Brule, Vancouver Giants. He led his team in scoring, took more high school credits than any other player in WHL.

Coach: Cory Clouston, Kootenay Ice. His team topped WHL with a 47-15-7-3 record

Sportsman: Jeff Carter, Soo Greyhounds. The Londoner led his team in scoring with 40 penalty minutes in 55 games. He played on Canada's world junior gold-medal team and was named world junior all-star for the second straight year.

Humanitarian: Colin Fraser, Red Deer Rebels. The Rebels captain was heavily involved in delivering anti-drug messages to schools and stressing importance of education.


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