Still sporting a fat lip from one of his many on-ice maulings, it's easy to see Rimouski Oceanic star forward Sidney Crosby is getting a rough ride at the Memorial Cup this week.
Heading into tonight's semifinal against Ottawa, he's wise to the fact he could potentially play two more physically demanding games in which opposing players will hack, slash and pound the 17-year-old from Cole Harbour, N.S., with their gloves, sticks, elbows and whatever other equipment and body parts are available at time of contact.
Crosby also knows it isn't new and that's the price to pay to achieve his dream of winning the Memorial Cup. All he can do is hope the cheap shots lead to Oceanic power plays and that he and his offensively-gifted team makes good on the opportunities.
"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't frustrating, but you have to hope it's called and make them pay on the scoreboard," the repeat Canadian Hockey League player-of-the-year said. "It's not the time to take a penalty. My job is to create offensive chances. If I'm getting frustrated, then they're doing their job."
Crosby has been visibly frustrated at times on the ice but he's been incredibly consistent with a goal and assist in each of Rimouski's two wins and a loss, which have all ended in a 4-3 score.
"I think it's gone well. We're right where we want to be with a chance to play in the final," he said.
Earlier in the season, Rimouski head coach Doris Labonte would've dealt with the Crosby beatings by putting an on-ice bodyguard beside him to even the score. But the stakes are too high for it this week and he'll have to make do with offensive linemates Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Dany Roussin.
"It's been like that all year," Labonte said. "When the refs called the penalties, everyone said the league was protecting Sidney Crosby. The refs didn't want people to think that, so it actually hurt him. It's too bad."
Most figure Crosby is playing his last weekend of major junior hockey here. His agent Pat Brisson is looking at the different pro routes available should the locked-out NHL not be an option.
It looks like next year, the only folks who will be hacking and slashing Crosby will be grown men who get paid for it.
But the only thing on his mind right now is getting through the Ottawa 67's tonight and booking a repeat of the tournament's entertaining opener between the Oceanic and the London Knights tomorrow. He's not concerned about having less than 24 hours to prepare for the final against the Knights should Rimouski beat Ottawa.
"Once you get to the final, anything can happen," he said. "You just have to find a way to get there."
He will get hit tonight, but it might not be as bad as everyone expects.
"I don't think you can spend the whole game going after Sidney Crosby," Ottawa forward and London native Mark Mancari said. "Obviously, you have to pay attention to him, but I don't think it's going to be like the first game, where we had guys go out of their way to hit him."