One-on-one with Sid The Kid

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:03 AM ET

PITTSBURGH — As much as he would like to, Sidney Crosby can not guarantee there will no ugly labour stoppage when the collective bargaining agreement runs out in 2012.

Having said that, Crosby is optimistic by what he has seen and heard from Donald Fehr, the man poised to become the next executive director of the NHL players association.

Make no mistake. Crosby does not want to see the NHL arenas go dark again as they did during the dispute of 2004-05.

“We don’t want a lockout,” Crosby told QMI Agency 13 months ago. “I don’t think anyone wants a lockout.

“It’s not like we’ve got six months to get (union affairs) settled. We’ve got time. At the same time there are decisions that have to be made.”

In the year that has elapsed since Crosby made those comments to us, one of those “decisions” he referred to has, in fact, been made, a huge one that has seen Fehr identified as the man the players are looking at to lead them into the future.

Fehr was scheduled to meet with the Vancouver Canucks in Toronto on Friday, completing his face-to-face appearances with each of the NHL’s 30 teams. A team-by-team vote is then expected later this month on whether to approve him as executive director.

In a one-on-one interview here in Pittsburgh, Crosby admitted being impressed with Fehr during his visit with the Penguins.

“He’s really educated and on top of things, which is good to see,” Crosby said. “In fact, everyone seems to like the direction things are going right now.”

Crosby stressed that communication between the NHLPA and its entire membership appears to have improved, a key factor moving forward. No longer does it appear that vital choices are being made by just a few talking heads.

“It’s so important,” Crosby said. “There is a long way to go, but there are encouraging signs.”

With the union stressing a democratic system of decision making, Crosby’s vote is just one of hundreds. At the same time, given his status as one of the NHL’s elite and most recognizable players, his words carry weight among his peers.

During our interview, Crosby discussed a number of wide-ranging issues including his team’s slow start, the new all-star game format, the aftermath of the Olympics and Steven Stamkos.

Just call it our annual edition of “Sid The Kid Unplugged.”

On the Pens' slow start

A 5-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night eased some of the pressure off the struggling Pens. Still, given the team’s slow start, Crosby continually is asked if it is time to panic.

“It’s far too early for that,” Crosby said. “The last few games, we didn’t feel like we were getting beat; we were beating ourselves. That’s something that’s never easy to deal with, but you’ve just got to fix it.”

No one was happier to see goalie Marc-Andre Fleury register his 150th career win Friday than Crosby.

“Confidence is so important for a goalie,” he said.

On the aftermath of the Olympics

Crosby wasn’t sure if the buzz surrounding his gold medal-winning goal in Vancouver would continue throughout the summer.

It did.

“The first week after that goal, I didn’t ever think I could ever feel like that,” Crosby recounted fondly. “I thought I’d felt the bulk of it. But it didn’t slow down at all during the off-season.”

Crosby is not a big memorabilia guy. The gloves and stick used to score the overtime winner against Ryan Miller are in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

“I do still have my helmet though,” he admitted.

On the Pens' elimination in the second round

Coming off back-to-back final appearances and an Olympic tournament, Crosby still will not acknowledge that fatigue played a role in his team’s second-round elimination to the Montreal Canadiens last spring.

“I don’t think I would have said that right away,” he said. “But I will admit I didn’t watch any hockey until the final. That’s when I realized, watching those games, how tired I really was.

“When you are always go go go, you don’t realize it. If we were in the final ourselves, we would have been fine. But watching it on TV, I realized how tired I was.”

On the revised All-Star format

Crosby admits it would be cool to be one of the captains. But would he not be worried at peeving off one of his peers if he didn’t select them?

“I think guys would understand, although maybe a few of them would be motivated.

“I think it’s a great idea. Maybe you just pick 10 guys and the rest are divided up.”

On Steven Stamkos of the Lightning

Comparisons between Stamkos and the NHL’s dynamic duo of Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin have become a hot topic this season. Stamkos scored Tampa Bay’s only goal in a 5-1 loss to the Penguins Friday.

“He’s definitely proving he’s one of the top players in the league this year,” Crosby said. “But it depends on how you judge it.

“You can have a good season or two but the toughest thing is, following it up. He’s doing that. And keep in mind, he’s not surprising people any more.”

Neither is Sid The Kid.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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