December 5, 2007
The Kid comes WestCrosby takes his dog, pony show into Western Canada
By TERRY JONES -- Sun Media
There were 18 television video cameras in the room to record the momentous event.
I'm not sure there were 18 video cams in all of Western Canada back when Wayne Gretzky was the same age and playing here.
They were all there to capture Sidney Crosby getting off the bus, taking the elevator to his hotel room and then entering the press conference room from the back door.
Columnists from Calgary and Vancouver were in place for the beginning of the Great Western Tour featuring tonight's first game which brings Sid The Kid to the building where The Great One used to play.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were late in arriving to Edmonton and the press conference to launch Crosby's inaugural live visits to the only three arenas in the league where he's never played before, originally scheduled for 4 p.m., started an hour late.
COULD BE A LONG WEEK
Fifteen minutes later, nobody could think of another question. This could be a long week.
And you couldn't help but leave the room and wonder if we Westerners were getting juuuust a bit carried away making this out to be as big a deal as we're making it out to be.
It certainly didn't seem to be for Crosby.
The initial inquiry at the gathering was as to how he felt to come here after three years in the NHL and finally be able to play "in the building Gretzky built."
Without sounding or looking too terribly excited at all, Crosby said "it's exciting."
I don't know why anybody expected this exceptionally polished, likable lad to sound otherwise. Then he wouldn't be Sidney Crosby. And he did say all the right things.
"It's exciting for me to come to a new place, especially in Canada. A lot of us come to a place where there's history and tradition and we're looking forward to it," he said, including teammates Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Ryan Whitney and Marc-Andre Fleury, who have never played here before, either.
It was clear the majority of the media was counting on Crosby taking the angle of his finally skating on the hallowed ice where Gretzky skated and giving it some legs.
"I wasn't even born then," said the 20-year-old from Cole Harbour, N.S.
The assembled media members weren't prepared to give up on the Gretzky angle.
Pittsburgh played at home to Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes the night before and Crosby was asked if he talked to Gretzky about making the trip here the next day.
"I haven't talked to him in a couple of years now," said last year's NHL scoring leader.
Crosby did tell about the time when he was 14 or 15, in other words five or six years ago, when his agent took him to a camp in Los Angeles and No. 99 showed up.
"He surprised the whole group," he said and then recalled how they were playing three-on-three hockey and how he positioned himself on the bench so he would be out on the ice at the same time to play against Gretzky.
If there was one entertaining moment at the event, it came when he did admit he wouldn't have minded playing in the olden days when Gretzky was here.
"A lot of us watch those classic games and you see the equipment on the goalies and it's hard not to cringe sometimes. Sometimes you wish you were shooting on guys with little bit smaller equipment.
"But that's just the way it is. That's hockey for us."
He said his impression of hockey here back in the Gretzky days was "a lot of offence - hockey at its best, up and down and a lot of skill."
ANGLE GOING NOWHERE
But the Gretzky angle was going nowhere.
It wasn't that he was playing the visit to Western Canada down. He said he'd brought his dad. And he got tickets for a couple of his buddies from back home.
He said he was happy that the NHL is going to revise the schedule to allow Eastern Conference teams to visit every other year.
"It's tough for the fans not to see different players and different teams," he said.
"I think it's great. It's good for everyone, the players and the fans."
But what Sidney Crosby really should have done yesterday was look out at all those cameras and say that three years and almost 200 games into his NHL career, he shouldn't have had to be coming here to go through this dog and pony show.