'I have to stay ready'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:58 AM ET

This was supposed to be the day Sidney Crosby's dream came true.

The day the Rimouski Oceanic phenom was supposed to find out where an NHL career scouts have projected will be spectacular was going to begin.

But the end of the season-long lockout hasn't come soon enough for the 17-year-old Crosby. Instead of being the No. 1 pick in the NHL entry draft at the Corel Centre today, he'll head to the gym in his home town of Cole Harbour, N.S.

"It's going to be just like any other day for me," Crosby told the Sun yesterday in a telephone interview. "I'm going to get up early and head for the gym to work out. I'm not going to do anything special. I have to stay ready.

"There's no draft (today, but) there's going to be one once there's an (NHL labour) agreement and I have to be ready for it. That means I have to keep working to be the best that I can be. When the NHL returns, I want to be ready for training camp. I fully expect that we're going to see some kind of an agreement this summer."

He has been hailed as the next Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux. Crosby tore up the QMJHL with the kind of talent you can't teach. Any scout will tell you he's also got "tremendous vision."

That's why there was so much excitement surrounding this day. Hockey fans were going to see a player who has been talked about since he was 13 years old finally put on an NHL jersey.

Crosby was excited about it, too.

If all was right in the NHL's world, Crosby would have spent this week being shuttled between teams for a battery of interviews and tests.

Instead, he has been concentrating on completing final exams for the high school correspondence courses he takes from a Moncton-based institution.

He graduated Wednesday, but there was no huge celebration or formal party to mark the occasion. That will have to wait until his hockey future is sorted out.

Even he admits being intrigued by the debate over how the draft order will be determined.

"I don't know how they're going to decide (the No. 1 pick) and it doesn't matter to me where I go," he said. "I just want to play in the NHL. It's actually kind of exciting when you hear all the different talk on what they're going to do. I've been following it pretty closely. Obviously, being in Ottawa (today) would have been exciting. I'm just going to have to wait a little while longer and there's nothing I can do about it. I don't have any control over that."

CENTRE STAGE

Still, Crosby admitted he'd like the chance to go to centre stage to accept a jersey. There has been talk the league might just do the draft by telephone, which means there wouldn't be much fanfare about it.

What player will ever forget the day they got called to the podium by their new NHL team? The chance to shake hands and accept a jersey as the No. 1 pick is a moment some end up calling the highlight of their careers.

"Getting the chance to go on stage and put on the jersey of whatever team you end up with is something every player wants to do," said Crosby, who plans to attend Canada's national junior team camp in August. "I would hope once this is settled, they'll hold as 'normal' a draft as they can and I get the chance to put on the jersey. That being said, it's something I can't control so I'm not going to worry about it."

He knows his day will come.

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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