Sid maintains role model status

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

At a time when Tiger Woods, Mark McGwire, and Gilbert Arenas dominate the sports headlines for all the wrong reasons, in flies Sidney Crosby to remind us all it's still safe to have heroes.

Jetting into Calgary in the wee hours of the morning following a tough loss in Minnesota, Crosby and his Pens were given the day off Tuesday.

However, as one of the game’s great ambassadors, the 22-year-old Nova Scotian agreed to cut into his sleep to satisfy a Calgary media corps that wanted to chat.

While the pen-toting pencil-necks packing the hotel conference room would’ve been satisfied just to get a few minutes with him in his sweats, Crosby showed up wearing a perfectly pressed suit and hair to match.

He didn’t just answer a few questions, he patiently answered all of them, including several probing queries on his faceoff prowess, the type of stick he uses and why he’s shooting more.

Of all the answers he provided, perhaps the most telling was his response when asked what he planned to do with a full day to himself.

“I pretty much stay in the room,” smiled Crosby, well aware autograph collectors stood outside the hotel and he’d be unable to go anywhere without being hounded.

“No shopping or anything like that. Stay in the cave and hang out there.”

Not that anyone is to feel sorry for the modern-era’s Wayne Gretzky. It just serves as a reminder of just how intrusive being a superstar can be, especially for one who covets his privacy. Which makes it all the more impressive he’s been able to remain one of the few superstars of our time who has never embarrassed himself, his team, his family, his country or his sport.

Not easy.

And like Gretzky did with Gordie Howe, the youngest captain ever to hoist the Cup became the class of the game by taking cues from people like the Great One.

“You just try to learn from other people as you go,” said Crosby when asked how he manages to avoid bad press.

“It’s one of those things where today with camera phones and internet — there’s probably not as much privacy as there was. To be honest that’s all I really know — that’s what I’ve grown up on and I don’t know any different. I’m a private person and I try to keep it that way.”

No one even knows if he has a girlfriend, which is a delightful mystery in a world where far too much celebrity information gets rehashed daily.

On the ice he still continues to amaze, albeit in Alex Ovechkin’s shadow. One goal behind league-leader Patrick Marleau, Crosby’s 28 goals have him on pace to shatter his previous record of 39 as a rookie. None of it should surprise anyone, as Crosby had no sooner led the Penguins to last year’s Cup when he informed coach Dan Bylsma he would spend his short summer working on improving his shot.

It worked, as has everything Crosby has done to live up to the expectations on and off the ice since Gretzky suggested almost a decade earlier Crosby would break his records.

“It’s impressive — you fail to realize how young he is still,” said Bylsma. “But when you realize he’s been in the spotlight since he was 14 years old ... being in front of cameras, answering questions and dealing with Team Canada, world juniors, Stanley Cup and being a captain and on and on, he seems to be quite level-headed about it. He approaches every day with a similar mentality for the fans, the camera and our team and he’s rock solid as he approaches every day.”

Wednesday night, Crosby will give Calgarians a rare glimpse of the NHL’s poster boy.

And here’s betting those in attendance leave the rink even more impressed with him.

If that’s even possible.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca


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