At the rink but off the ice, Sidney Crosby’s life is a never-ending series of questions, mostly from strangers huddled around his dressing room stalls.
“What do you think about Letang’s season?”
“Did you hear what Yzerman said about you?”
“Can you get 50 in 50?”
“How about your linemates, Kunitz and Dupuis?”
“And what’s it been like with HBO watching your every move?”
And on and on – for at least eight or nine minutes every morning and after every game, until the PR fellow dutifully watching the proceedings says “last question,” a phrase he’ll need to repeat several times before the herd departs.
Because of the dynamic in a scrum, some of the questions are designed to stand out, to elicit something interesting from a player like Crosby who has been asked this and that and everything else 27 times already this week.
“How would you define the phrase ‘best player in the game?’ ” offered Yahoo!’s Nicholas Cotsonika.
Crosby bites, but it’s only a nibble, enough of a response that the reporters are satisfied and can write the angle of the day on a 23-year-old wunderkind who needs two dressing room stalls just to accommodate his massive media contingent.
(At the Penguins old digs, the Igloo, Crosby sat next to Mario Lemieux’s long since vacated stall. Even after Mario retired, it was never filled in order to provide enough space for No. 87’s entourage.)
Sometimes even two stalls isn’t enough, and Matt Cooke and Max Talbot, who sit next to the captain, can get trapped in their seats wearing sweaty gear until the cameras and microphones get their fill and move on.
Mostly to ask other Penguins about Crosby.
His teammates all seem to realize what he goes through – with the monotony of it perhaps the worst part – and don’t envy that side of super stardom.
“Most guys can’t do it,” said Chris Kunitz, Crosby’s linemate and friend off the ice, someone who has grown especially accustomed to talking about the young star he may forever be linked to.
“Especially to put on the hockey face every day. He doesn’t go looking for it – it’s something they’ve always asked him to do. Good and bad, whatever the days are, if we have a bad game or whatever he’s still the first guy to sit there and face the music.”
The music is rarely all that bad – especially on this team and in this sport, where the few true superstars are seldom ripped by the press. The worst that ever seems to be said of Crosby is that he’s boring – and that could well be true, at least compared to the larger than life personalities we’ve grown used to seeing light up the screen when they speak.
What Crosby likely is more than anything, however, is simply average – a regular old 20-something from just outside Halifax who just happens to have an incredible gift paired with an incredible work ethic and a love for the game that seems almost unmatched around the league.
Who is he beyond that isn’t really that easy to get to, at least when you sit in on his conversations in the locker room, a member of a herd looking for a morsel of “interesting” from a young man not known for producing much in that department.
“All the stories that haven’t been told [about him] are not going to be talked about,” said Pascal Dupuis, one of a few older brother types Crosby has on the team.
Whether or not HBO, with their 24/7 access (which likely will include rides in Crosby’s car but not visits to his home, he says), can coax any of those tales out into the open remains to be seen.
While the behind the scenes, always rolling format seems so very new to the NHL, Sid the Kid makes it sound as old hat as the crusty Penguins ball cap he’s been wearing every day in the locker room for years.
It’ll be just another camera – only this one hangs around a little longer, probing even more for “interesting” in some unlikely places.
“There’s four guys, you got a camera guy, you got a guy holding the screen, there’s guys with mics – I don’t know if they’ll blend in,” Crosby said of his new found friends. “But I think everyone’s kind of gotten used to it.
“Some guys have never dealt with that before, some of us have dealt with that kind of thing before. It’s a little bit easier [for us]. For some guys it might take them a couple days to get used to having a camera in your face [when you're] tying your skates or eating your breakfast or whatever.”
Crosby eating his Wheaties, coming to a made for TV special near you.
And answering more questions, no doubt.