He’s the best hockey player on the planet. For the first few years of his career it looked like he had competition from players like Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos. But since early 2010 he has separated himself from the rest. It’s really not even a debate anymore; Sidney Crosby is the best player on the planet.
Crosby, a native of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, began to capture the attention of the hockey world while he was still a young teenager. Even Wayne Gretzky—the holder of 60 NHL records—suggested that if any player had the potential to surpass him it would be this kid from eastern Canada. That’s pretty high praise, coming from the greatest offensive hockey player in history.
Crosby spent his junior career playing for the Rimouski Océanic in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. During that time, he was also selected to represent Canada at the World Junior Championships in 2004 (while he was only 16 years old) and again in 2005.
Later in 2005, Crosby was to be drafted into the NHL. In fact, Crosby was so highly regarded as one of the best prospects in history that the 2005 NHL Entry Draft became known as the “Sidney Crosby Sweepstakes.” Those “sweepstakes” were won by the Pittsburg Penguins and their owner, hockey icon Mario Lemieux. Following the draft, Crosby moved in with the Lemieux family where he doubled as a babysitter. Crosby stayed with the Lemieux family from 2005 until 2010, providing him with a valuable mentoring relationship. Crosby was able to learn what it means to be a hockey superstar from a hockey superstar.
In his first season in the NHL, Crosby finished sixth in total points (102). This was a phenomenal accomplishment for the rookie, as he also set the assists and points records for a Penguins rookie which had previously been held by Lemieux.
In his second year, he led the NHL in points (120). This made Crosby the only teenager to ever do that in any major North American sports league. His accomplishment earned him the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer, the Hart Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player according to the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association, and the Lester B. Pearson Award (now the Ted Lindsey Award) as the most valuable player according to the NHL Player’s Association.
In 2008, Crosby led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup finals where they lost to the Detroit Red Wings. But both teams were back in 2009, and this time Crosby’s Penguins won the Cup. This made Crosby the youngest player to ever captain his team to the Stanley Cup Championships.
In 2010, Crosby set a new career high for goals scored with 51, earning him the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league leader in goals. That same year he also took home the Mark Messier Leadership Award.
Other players—both past and present—have taken note of the talent of Sidney Crosby. In addition to Gretzky and Lemieux singing Crosby’s praises, former all-star Peter Forsberg has described Crosby by saying, “He’s quicker than I was. Maybe a better shot, too.” And a poll of current players conducted by Hockey Night in Canada and the NHLPA at the 2011 NHL All-Star Game identified Crosby as the toughest player to play against, the smartest player in the NHL, the best role model, and the best player to choose if you were starting a franchise.
Beyond any of these accomplishments, Crosby has gained a place in Canadian history for one goal in particular that he scored in February 2010. It was the final day of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Team Canada and the USA met in the gold medal hockey game. The USA tied the game late in the third period, causing the game to go into sudden-death overtime. Then came Crosby’s moment. Seven minutes and forty seconds into overtime, Crosby shoveled the puck past US goaltender Ryan Miller and into the net. His goal won the game and claimed the gold medal for Canada.
Crosby still has not hit his prime. Barring injury, he should have several years and a dynamic career in front of him. But even at his young age, Crosby has an impressive resumé.
The excitement surrounding Sidney Crosby is due to his potential. But his success is due to his work ethic. Crosby relentlessly strives to improve his game. And as a result, he has earned the respect of his fellow players. Assuming his career continues on its current trajectory, we are watching the making of a hockey legend.