Seeing that my initial Crosby / Habs post sent my site meter into a complete tizzy, it's only natural that I offer a followup. Considering the number of hits from the Pennsylvania state, I thought that a little more research into the matter was due.
After being called delusional, twisted, maligned, and dropped from a window, among other things, I found it necessary to get a bit more dirt under my fingernails.
Digging deeper into Crosby's youth while growing up in Nova Scotia, I was able to come across hundreds of so called friends and aquaintences, all too willing too help out. The sheer numbers got a little overwhelming at times, and I began doubting the claims of many who said they knew Sid well. I began to distrust their dubious natures once all three Trailor Park Boys e-mails reached me. Someone calling herself Sidney's Aunt Bessie had me going back forth for a week. Bessie, it turns out, was an internet freakshow - let's leave it at that!
One very stern bit of mail was written it legalese, asking me politely and quietly to cease and desist - which is funny because that's redundant!
Finally, I settled on 17 e-mails of interest - people who knew the significance of Sidney's jersey number having more to do with his year of birth. For those who blew it, his birthday is August 7 - 8th month, 7th day. Nice try!
From those seventeen parties, I gathered the common facts together by a process of elimination. If only a few stated a certain point, it was left aside. On the other hand, if most claimed something to be true, it is contained here. They shall all remain nameless here out of respect. Thank goodness for those el-cheapo long distance calling cards - time zones are a bitch! To the one gentleman who pointed to the fact that Sid's father Troy is a card carrying member of the Canadiens alumni, I offer a special thank you - Sir, you pointed me in a very prosperous direction. Hope I've got all this down right.
It would have been real smooth had I been able to come out with a tidy round number of 10 facts to suit this post. Unfortunately, I'm cutting off at 7 + bits. I couldn't have added one or two more without redundancy setting in.
In the order of Sidney's growing up, here's what I've learned.
1 - As I'm sure everyone knows, Sidney was conceived and born while the Canadiens were reigning Cup champs in 1986. Father Troy was slightly crushed that a young goalie named Patrick Roy looked to be the Habs goalie of the future, dimming his slight chances at progressing in the organization. Nonetheless, Troy began gifting little Sid with every conceivable Habs logo'd toy he could find. Friends joked about Troy's fixations. A Habs bib and soother, a Habs baby blanket, Habs wallpaper, and a Habs crib all give the little newborn something to point to and make him smile. At the age of one, as he was now walking, his father found him some Habs diapers that he wore for a week. For some reason, little Sid refused to go in them. While Mom and Dad noticed they were dry each time they were removed, Sidney began cramping up some as if refusing to poop or pee while in them. Once they were discarded, the problem was solved. Sidney was already inherant of a fatherly trait - Troy kept everything with a Canadians logo and kept it clean as well.
2 - Sidney's first introduction to hockey were his Dad's picture's of course, but for the game itself it was table hockey. Troy had long kept a table game from his teenage years in pristine condition until Sidney rambunctuously and unwittingly, destroyed it. It was a classic NHL table, with the Leafs in blue and the Habs in red, and Troy started showing Sidney how to twist and pull the knobs beginning at age two. He soon became consumed with working it and developed very early hand to eye co-ordination. He'd play on it for hours at a time, seemingly never getting bored, unlike children of that age. When Troy was too busy to play, little Sid played alone, tilting the game up or down whenever the puck went beyond the reach of his players. It must have been funny to watch. When Troy found the time to play he had to settle for the Leafs end of the table as Sidney always had a grip on the Montreal end. Sidney played on this table almost to the age of 8. It still sits, unfunctional in the Crosby household in Cole Harbour.
3 - Before Sidney turned two, the Canadiens found themselves in another Stanley Cup final, one they would lose to the Calgary Flames in 1989. Troy made a couple of trips west to catch a pair of games. Returning from one such excursion, he gave Sidney a small plastic stick, essentially his first stick, labelled with the Habs logo. His father stayed up late many a night watching the games while bouncing Sidney on his knee. As he now had a full childlike vocabulary, Troy taught him the "Go, Habs, Go" chant, which little Sid proceeded to utter at all times of the days and nights. Sidney had made the association between the table game, his Dad's pictures, and the game on TV. When Troy would arrive home from work, Sid would greet him with a shout of "Go, Habs, Go" just to put a smile on his face. Once Troy showed him how to hold the plastic stick, Sidney began whacking everything in sight in his bedroom. He got a particular thrill it seems, from flicking teddy bears off the floor onto his bed with Habs stick. Needless to say, he had hours of fun with this toy also.
4 - Nearing the age of four, Sidney's hockey awareness had parlayed itself into his complete existance. Skating had obviously brought speed and moves into his thinking as he practiced different sets of skills at every opportunity. Watching all the games he could on TV opened his imagination big and wide. Neighborhood pals recalled that for street hockey games (or in driveways) he would never show up without his Canadiens jersey over his jacket. Clearly, at this point, even before competitive organized play, Sidney identified with himself in the bleu, blanc, rouge of his Dad's favorite team. On the streets of Cole Harbour, Sidney would pull his own goalnet home should anyone showing up in Habs jersey not play on his side. It's told he did it more than once. He'd rather drag the net up the block than take the jersey off.
5 - As soon as Sidney began playing organized games, Troy would have to choose coaching the team with the Canadiens colours or Sid would simply pout before finally getting over it, often settling for the closest red jersey. Soon Sidney learned to do without as he was playing against kids in older age groups (which incidently he also did in baseball). His mother Trina, suffered a bit of the same treatment at Sid's sixth birthday party. She'd made him a cake with a hockey player on it but couldn't get any red icing, instead settling on blue and yellow. With a few hockey pals at the table, Sidney blew out the candles, while an embarrassed look covered his face. He scraped the icing off his piece before eating it while telling Trina the colors were all wrong.
6 - Troy promised Sidney in 1993 that if the Canadiens made it to the finals he'd take him to a game. Depending on who was telling the story, it was either after they'd beaten the Nordiques or the Sabres. I allude to this because it seems Troy agreed to it, figuring the Habs wouldn't make it all the way. Once they'd taken a 2-0 lead in games against the Islanders, Troy called in every favor from old friends possible in order to score a pair of tickets. (This ties into the Habs alumni note I'd made earlier. From his query, Troy was eventually honored with membership, but was not yet in at this point. It must be stated that the Habs alumni was still branching out to include different levels of acceptance while his requests were made.) Troy sought out game seven tickets but could only land game five. Little did he know how lucky he was. While it cost him over $400.00 for the pair, he was made known of their availability the morning of the game. Crazily, he picked up Sid at school and made the long drive to Montreal. Weather didn't make the trip easy, and they had to find the address of the friend in Laval where the tickets were picked up before the game. They actually missed the first half of the opening period before finding their seats. One funny aside is that Sidney had to pee for the entire second period, but wouldn't until it ended. As everyone knows, the Habs won their 24th Cup that night, and as Troy has told it, the look on Sidney's face was purely magical. It remains the favorite memory of his entire youth. I was told a diverse bunch of stories as to how Sidney reacted to seeing the Cup raised. Five of my respondants literally had dozens of takes on it. As relayed through Troy, it is said that as the Cup was being brought out, Sidney removed his gaze from the ice surface to look his Dad in the eyes to say "This is just so cool!" Imagine yourself in his shoes! Remember, he wasn't quite six years old yet.
7 - Sidney did not get to attend another Habs game until he was 9, in October of 1996. Patrick Roy was no longer there then and it was mentioned that at the time his favorite player was Pierre Turgeon, who wore #77. As Troy relates it, it was on that evening, after watching Turgeon get four assists, that Sidney spoke to his father about wearing a high number such as #77, or #66 like Lemieux and #99 like Gretzky. After the game, Troy took him upstairs in the Molson Center (now the Bell Center) to "Le Chambre Des Anciens", which is the Montreal Canadiens Oldtimers Room. Troy and Sidney met with Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau, Dollard St. Laurent, and Pierre Bouchard among others. Nine year old Sidney knew little of them, of course, but was impressed with the history shrouding the room in the manner of trophy displays, pictures galore, and the overall memorabilia covering the wall to wall history. He was especially attuned to 24 miniature Stanley Cup banners hung in all four corners of the lounge. Troy often speaks, it is said, of the gleam in Sidney's eyes as he counted them. The sad part was that no one seemed to give a hoot of the father and son Crosby's - no one knew who they were! Once Sidney started becoming somewhat know nationally at age 14, they made a return trip. Rejean Houle, who had recently been terminated as Habs GM the previous season, had been reinstated as President of the Habs Oldtimers Association, and of course was familiar with the Sidney Crosby name, gave him a personal grand tour of the room. He actually got to sit down and chat with Beliveau. While he had learned of Jean from his Dad and reading books on the Canadiens history, he asked many questions. Beliveau classy as always, mostly asked Sidney about himself. For the ten hour trip home the following morning, all Sidney could talk about with Troy, was of the privilege and pride he felt being there. And meeting Beliveau! It was only in school a few days later that he heard the news that Turgeon had been traded to the St. Louis Blues. Sidney was mad as hell at Montreal until he learned thatTurgeon had wanted out. After which, he was mad at Turgeon!
8 - No long story here - just some random trails. At 13, Sidney knew he would one day play in the NHL, and it focused his every goal. He started accumulating VCR copies of Gretzky tapes, sought out the Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup videos, hockey drill instructional videos, and hockey video games too many to mention. As consumed as he was with hockey and everything about it, he kept his school marks up. (One person mentioned that he completed high school via a correspondance course from Pittsburgh.) At times his favorite players were Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull and Mike Modano. Knowing he was likely to play in the QMJHL one day, he took a more dedicated approach to french courses. He followed the Canadiens still, while a touch disillusioned by their mediocrity. More than one person I conversed with noted than Sidney was so busy with hockey via travelling, practicing, and training that they practically fell out of touch with him and Troy during his mid teens. Soon he'd be off to Minnesota, to Rimouski, fame and onward. One old pal honestly stated that he's almost jealous of Sidney's fame as he felt it stole an old friend from him. Such would be the life of a rising NHLer.
Research being what it is, I had the time of my life looking this up!
I will however, only be convinced Sidney will one day be a Hab the day the deal goes down. This leads me to think it could happen, not that it will. Among the people who were so generous by trusting me with information, several suggested to me that Sidney is a very loyal person. His love and dedication to family, Mom, Dad, and sister, remain his most precious bonds. It was told by more than a few that Sidney became quite enamoured in the Mario Lemieux household. Watching a most exemplary role model deal with a multitude of ordeals last season has helped mold him into a man. While the Penguins organization tends to his blossoming career, Sidney's drive continues. I've watched it unfold on the ice this season. He's the best player in the league already, in my opinion.
From all I've learned about him here, there is way more that I could have put down. I guess it will spill out into this blog from time to time. I would have loved to speak to, or exchange e-mails with Shawna Richer, but her paper and publicist have ignored my requests. Why am I not surprised?
If Sidney were ever to wear the colours of the team of his childhood dreams, I may be more realistic in thinking it would be after 2017 rather than 2012. Crosby would be 30 then, and would have given the Pens his prime dozen years. Who knows what kind of player he'd be a that point. Much can happen! The way Sidney has been described to me by people who knew him closely at one point, or those who are friends from Troy's past, he moves from goal to goal. Surely he'll want to leave a neverending impression with fans in Pittsburgh before plying his trade in another city. One writer did mention how Sidney thought the world of how Raymond Bourque handled his quest for Cup thirst. Bourque as hockey fans surely recall, gave his all to the Bruins organization that believed in him, before moving to Colorado for his personal triumph.
Montreal's countown to Sidney may well be on a whole different calendar!