December 5, 2007
Sid the Kid is still down to earth
By ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media
EDMONTON -- With almost two-dozen cameramen staking out the lobby in anticipation of The Arrival, four security guards stood guard as if the Westin's front foyer was the back door at Cowboys.
As the NHL's head of security watched from the weeds, collectible geeks clutched their binders outside as dozens of fans positioned themselves near escalators, on the balcony or blatantly loitered in the lobby lounge -- fork in one hand, camera phone in the other.
The only civilized diner in the bunch was TSN's Gord Miller, who sat with his mom sipping soup.
Almost as if they'd all been waiting the full two-and-a-half years for his first visit to town, they simply wanted a glimpse of Sidney Crosby as he began his inaugural western Canada tour, dubbed Route 87.
An hour late due to a holdup at customs where the youngest scoring champ in sports history likely caused a backlog while signing his name, the Pittsburgh Penguins' bus finally arrived.
As security moved in place, forcing innocent passers-by to be shoed away like flies, it was only fitting in the city Wayne Gretzky put on the map, his heir-apparent was getting U.S. presidential treatment.
"Sidney's got more credibility than the president," snarled one grizzled broadcaster.
Turns out he's right. And over the course of Crosby's 20-minute press conference, his Gretky-esque class, humility and honesty hammered home that point. He even threw in a French answer for good measure.
As brilliant as the reigning Hart Trophy winner is on the ice, he's equally as poised off it. Real, too.
In fact, the tuque-toting superstar even carried his luggage off the bus just like everyone else. Gasp.
"It's flattering but its just part of it," shrugged the 20-year-old east coaster of the fanfare sure to greet him in Calgary tomorrow and Vancouver the next day.
"I didn't wake up this morning thinking about this. I just deal with it and have fun doing what I love to do. I think I've always just grown to accept everything that comes with it and I try not to complain."
And just like Wayne, he subtly reminded us his upbringing is what has kept him grounded.
"I'd say if anything (the fame) affects my family more -- they go through some rough times -- if I could choose anything to change, it would be to make things easier on them," said Sid.
He left two tickets for tonight's game against the Oilers for transplanted pals and one for his dad, Troy, a Montreal draft pick who is following the western swing.
"I think he's just getting a kick out of seeing his son get a lot of love out of the game. I'm living my dream and doing what I love to do and that's probably every parent's dream," Crosby said.
Asked what he remembers of a young Gretzky, who won seven scoring titles before Sid was born, the Pens captain flashed an apologetic grin.
"Not a whole lot to be honest. When you grow up on the east coast, you don't see the west play that much," he said as local scribes fished for more parallels between The Great One and the phenom Gretzky predicted would beat his records.
"It's not saying it's not a compliment, but I think you're putting a lot of weight on your shoulders if you're trying to be Wayne Gretzky every day."
So he doesn't.
"What I do know is it's a great atmosphere here," said Crosby, whose only previous western ventures were a 2001 and 2002 appearance at the Mac's Midget tourney with Dartmouth Subways and Shattuck/St. Mary's prep school, respectively.
"So I'll just enjoy it and try to be myself."