Remember, Sid still a kid

MIKE ZEISBERGER

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

If you listen to the ballooning bandwagon of Sidney Crosby bashers that have been snatching the headlines of late, Sid The Kid is nothing more than:

a) a whiner

b) a flopper

c) a wimp

c) a prima donna

e) all of the above

Excuse us, but you forgot a couple.

Like the fact he's just 19.

Or that he is the leading scorer in the so-called top league in professional hockey.

Other than that ...

"Facts like that tend to get overlooked by some of these people, and I don't understand it," veteran Pittsburgh Penguins forward Mark Recchi said yesterday, livid at the mere mention of the growing anti-Crosby contingent.

There have been no shortage of critics, to be sure.

Just over a week ago, for example, several Montreal Canadiens said Crosby should not crumple in a heap whenever he gets hit.

"Sid's face is swelled up from getting high sticked and they are saying he should have stayed on his feet," Ryan Malone, Crosby's linemate, said. "But people just have to find something wrong."

Then there was Ken Hitchcock, Recchi's one-time coach with the Philadelphia Flyers, who last season claimed Crosby was a diver a la Greg Louganis. It wasn't the first time Sid the Kid was painted in such a bad light, nor, it seems, will it be the last.

"It's sad to see, to be honest," Recchi said. "No one has taken or takes more crap than he does, and it's kind of sickening.

"No one cares more about the game or his teammates than Sid. We should be embracing this kid and what he is doing for the game, and instead people constantly are trying to dig up negative things on him, anything to bring him down. It's really disappointing.

"Some of these people on TV who constantly rip him, they just don't know. People don't know what he's like."

His teammates do. And they like what they see.

Just ask Malone, who chuckled yesterday when recalling the several days the team spent at West Point last September, a boot camp with a hockey twist, if you will.

One of the drills featured Pens players wading through a gooey bog as if they were soldiers in the jungle. If only his critics could have seen the NHL's poster boy trudging through the muck, hardly looking the part of the aloof crybaby they sometimes allege him to be.

"He'll jump in the swamp with everyone else," Malone said. "He'll get his nose dirty, on and off the ice."

Some feel he shouldn't have to. The Penguins, in fact, have taken their own share of heat for not featuring a full-time enforcer to protect Sid the Kid at all times.

But Recchi is quick to point out that the Carolina Hurricanes did not have a policeman watching out for Eric Staal a year ago. The 'Canes went on to win the Stanley Cup anyway.

Besides, his teammates always are quick to come to his aid. This isn't like the Vince Carter days in Toronto when nary a Raptor would come to see how Air Canada was doing whenever he was rolling around the floor with a boo-boo.

Either way, Crosby said he can handle being roughed up both on and off the ice.

"I went through a lot of the same things in junior," Crosby said. "I don't worry about these things."

Informed that Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Jay Feaster suggested he might have to get into a fight by the end of the season, presumably to show he can defend himself, Crosby replied, "For what reason would I drop the gloves?"

He paused to grin.

"Who knows?" he said. "You never know what will (provoke) you."

After all, he's still just a teenager. Or did you all forget?


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