RALEIGH, N.C. – Pittsburgh Penguins captain, and now two-time Stanley Cup champion, Sidney Crosby raised hockey’s coveted hardware, the Stanley Cup, high after a 3-1 Game 6 win over the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on Sunday.
The moment took me back to a conversation I had with him back in mid-February when the Pens visited PNC Arena during the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup 10th anniversary celebration weekend.
I specifically asked Crosby about his experience in seeing the Cup while growing up and all that he heard about it, including not touching it.
Like many minor hockey players, he visited the Hockey Hall of Fame, resting place for Lord Stanley’s ‘Holy Grail’, during his Pee Wee days while playing in a hockey tournament in Toronto, Ontario.
He knew that the legend was to look at and stand by it, but not to touch it if you desired to win it someday.
“I’m pretty sure we went with a group, but I remember reading stories, or you read the Hockey News or something like that, where older guys would bring that up,” Crosby said.
“I’m sure I asked my dad at some point what it was all about, and he told me. All the books said that.”
Many visitors to the Hall of Fame take a picture with the famed hardware, like I did with my father at the old location at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) when I was growing up, and during our visit to its downtown location last December.
You have to, and to not, is to miss out on a great opportunity to be close to one of the most famed trophies in all of sport.
Believe it or not, even though he was at the Hockey Hall of Fame for the first time, Sid didn’t remember seeing the Cup.
He didn’t even recall walking up to the Great Hall because he did what all young, aspiring pre-teen, NHL players with a lot of energy do at the Hall of Fame – they shoot pucks on net in the interactive playing areas as well as call simulated games in the TSN SportsCentre booth they have downstairs.
“I don’t even know if I saw it to be honest,” Crosby admitted.
“I don’t remember that moment seeing it, so I probably didn’t. That’s all I remember, those virtual games that they had there. I remember calling one of the World Junior games and you would pretend you were the commentator. That was pretty cool. I was probably into a lot of that stuff. I remember hittin’ a good shot and I got a Hockey Hall of Fame golf shirt.”
With the Cup in the concourse at PNC Arena prior to that night’s game, Crosby’s words of advice to Hurricanes fans regarding viewing it was to “just take it all in.”
“You don’t know when you have opportunities that special and that unique whether you’re a hockey fan or not,” he said.
“I think the Stanley Cup just has this thing where it’s just attracts people who might not even know what it is. They’re attracted to it, this beautiful thing – it’s a sight to see. That’s part of the cool thing about it, the reactions you get from people. They get to see it, see all the names and what it’s about.”
For those fans who witnessed the Hurricanes win and raise the Cup up close in 2006, they will tell you the experience is like no other.
When he set his hands on the Stanley Cup for the first time in 2009, Crosby was the youngest captain to do so.
Coincidentally enough, that happened the last year Carolina made the playoffs, part of a run that ended when Sid and the Penguins swept them in the Eastern Conference Final.
With the Hurricanes chasing the Penguins for a playoff spot back in February, Crosby said it would be a tough game, and it was.
It took Kris Letang’s deke to beat goaltender Cam Ward to earn a 2-1 shootout win, one of the year-ending 27 victories that went along with six losses and a tie, as Pittsburgh finished the regular season from that point on as the NHL’s hottest team heading into the playoffs.
The Stanley Cup moved on after returning to the Triangle and eventually made its way to San Jose.
Coincidentally enough, it was Letang who scored the eventual game-winning goal to win the Cup against the Sharks.
Finishing on a 16-8 run in the NHL postseason, the Penguins once again got the opportunity to see, touch, and earned the right to lift the Stanley Cup high among one another and in front of everyone watching.
Crosby had realized his childhood dream to see and touch the Cup again, even if he didn’t do so when he was a kid – Sid the Kid.