He is a Red Wing to his core and always will be identified with the Original Six NHL team, but Mr. Hockey says it's time to give the Kid a break.
While Gordie Howe clearly would have preferred that his Detroit Red Wings had won the Stanley Cup final this past week, he said yesterday that folks have been too hard on Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby for his delay in shaking hands with Detroit players.
"He's a good kid, he's young enough," Howe said at Woodbine, where he was the ceremonial drawmaster for Sunday's 150th running of the Queen's Plate. "He didn't mean to offend anybody, he's just young and he's a little shy. He got caught up but he will mature."
Several Wings players criticized Crosby for not hustling to the traditional post-game handshake despite the fact he had just won his first Cup and had sat out most of the final two periods with a knee injury after a questionable hit.
But Howe said it's easy to get swept up in the emotion of the moment, especially at the conclusion of a gruelling seven-game series.
The 81-year-old legend said that shyness isn't such a bad thing in a young player, however. In fact, Crosby's demeanour when the two met earlier this year reminded him of his own days as a young NHL rookie.
"During the time I talked to him I basically said: 'Don't let anything bother you, keep on the right road,' " Howe said. "You're on the right road and you're doing a hell of a good job."
Howe believes that if Crosby continues to improve and mature, he has the potential to become the clear No. 1 player in the league.
"I'm not going to say he knows everything, but he's getting there fast," Howe said. "In a couple more years if he stays healthy, who knows?"