PITTSBURGH -- Who is Sidney Crosby's biggest hockey mentor?
If you guessed Mario Lemieux, you're right. But a close second is a player instrumental in tutoring Crosby as he readied for the NHL, Boston Bruins outstanding sophomore centre Patrice Bergeron.
Last night's contest between the Pens and Bruins reunited the two who keep in touch by cell phone as they hopscotch across the NHL.
"We talk a lot," Crosby said.
It was Bergeron who shepherded Crosby through one of his formative hockey experiences: The 2005 world junior hockey championship in Grand Forks, N.D.
The two were roommates for 26 days through training camp and the final win over Russia. Bergeron, a native of Sillery, Que., near Quebec City was in the midst of a remarkable run in which he won two world junior tournaments and a world hockey championships.
Bergeron broke into the NHL as an 18-year-old in 2003-04 and posted a 16-goal rookie season and Crosby blitzed him with questions about what to expect as an NHLer.
"I'd never really been close to anyone like that who was playing in the NHL," Crosby said. "It was nice to see how it went. It was cool too because he was only basically a year older so he was able to relate to the things that were going on in junior. We knew the same guys."
Crosby said Bergeron was his role model for playing against older, stronger players.
"He played one year of midget, one year of junior, then the NHL. He was someone who was able to adapt fast. He was ready, he prepared for it. It was helpful to see someone who was dedicated like that."
For his part, Bergeron is sure Crosby will thrive as a rookie but sees a radically different experience in store for Crosby.
"The most important thing for Sidney is to not lose his concentration with all the distractions," Bergeron told reporters when the two met in the exhibition season. "Unlike me, I was an unknown when I came into the league."