Crosby expects no less than gold

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:18 PM ET

Sidney Crosby may end up being the face of the 2010 Olympics but, on this particular afternoon, he looks more like the poster child for someone in need of a flu remedy.

Sitting in the lobby of the Pittsburgh Penguins' team hotel, Crosby is playing hurt. Bundled up in a jacket and toque, Sid The Kid graciously has agreed to do an interview about the Vancouver Games, just a year away, despite having been under the weather for several days.

His voice is fatigued and raspy, until the subject of Canada's quest -- make that "need" -- to win it all in Vancouver comes up.

When Crosby hears that notion, he reacts as if he has been injected with a dose of adrenaline. His words become more passionate, more energized, especially when it is suggested that Canadians will accept nothing less than gold.

"Why shouldn't they expect that?" said No. 87, who expects to play against the Maple Leafs tonight at the Air Canada Centre. "As players, we should not expect anything less either.

"Canada has never taken a back seat to anyone. Nor do we expect to. I think it has always been like that since I first woke up to watch the world juniors."

Just when you think the bar could not be set any higher for Team Canada, leave it to Crosby to raise it another notch.

Not that being in the limelight is anything new to Crosby. For a kid who scored 217 regular-season points in midget, notoriety came early.

Yet, even after representing Canada at the world junior, even after being the top pick in the 2005 draft, even after being projected to follow in the footsteps of Pens legend Mario Lemieux, Crosby knows Team Canada players will be sailing into uncharted waters in Vancouver.

"Everyone realizes the expectations," he said. "But a lot of guys can't really prepare for this. How do you? Maybe they've played at the world juniors. Maybe they've played in other Olympics. But not an Olympics here."

Crosby's fascination with Olympic hockey, like many of his fellow Canadians, peaked in 2002.

Having watched the gold-medal game on TV at his home in Cole Harbour, N.S., Crosby received a glimpse of just how Canada would react at winning a gold. With Canada capturing its first Olympic title in 50 years, Crosby peaked out the window and witnessed the celebration.

"Everybody was out on the streets, carrying flags," he said. "It was fun. It was amazing. "I would so love to be part of that in any way, shape or form."

Many predicted he would be in the mix for the 2006 Games in Turin. Despite being a raw rookie, there was a push from Crosby Nation to name him to the roster, a cause that would fall short.

And when Team Canada came home from Italy fatigued, depressed and without a medal, the second-guessing mushroomed.

"Why wasn't Crosby there?"

"No wonder Canada had trouble scoring."

Blah, blah, blah.

Crosby heard all the arguments. His supporters proved to be far more bitter than he was.

"Going into my (rookie season), I didn't even expect to be mentioned," he said. "When the possibility did arise, I got a little excited. But I wasn't devastated when I wasn't included. I accepted it and became a fan like everyone else.

"I felt bad for the guys. The expectations were so high on them."

Come Vancouver, they will be even loftier. That's fine with Crosby who, unless he suffers a serious injury, is about as much a slam dunk to make the 2010 squad as you can get.

"It would be a huge honour," he said. "The Olympics are a whole different stage. It's about more than just hockey. It's about athletes training their whole lives for this."

We beg to differ on one point.

For this country, it is about the hockey. It is about winning the gold.

And it's about Sidney Crosby leading Canada to the promised land.

At least those are a country's expectations, expectations he so readily embraces.

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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