Sidney Crosby didn't see the fight that caused Connor McDavid to break a bone in his hand. Still, the NHL superstar understands what it's like to get picked on as a junior-hockey prospect.
"I'm sure he's got a target on his back," Crosby said Thursday. "It's not easy sometimes. It's one of those flukey things. But no matter how many times you've done it, even if you talk to guys who have fought for years, anything can happen in a fight and you really do have to be careful."
McDavid is out five to six weeks with a fracture of the fifth metacarpal bone in his right hand as a result of hitting the top of the boards during a fight Tuesday night with Mississauga's Bryson Cianfrone.
Though Erie Otters owner and general manager Sherry Bassin said he's "confident" his captain will be able to play for Canada at the world junior championship, the six-week time frame makes that a question mark. McDavid would be either the No. 1 or No. 2 centre if healthy.
Crosby, who won a world junior gold medal in 2005, knows McDavid wants to get back for the tournament. His recommendation is for the 17-year-old phenom not to worry about it right away.
"I think you just try to kind of take care of the present instead of thinking about too much down the road," Crosby said. "It's easier said than done sometimes."
Crosby said he didn't think he ever had an official fight while playing for the Rimouski Oceanic in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
"A half of one, maybe," the Pittsburgh Penguins captain said after practice at the Toronto Maple Leafs' facility. "They might've gave me four minutes for roughing."
With Rimouski, Crosby said he had players on the team to protect him from those situations. But that's not always a solution, as McDavid showed in the fight that got him injured.
"Sometimes emotion and things get the best of you and things happen," Crosby said. "I'm sure that his teammates and his coaches will be telling him to keep his gloves on if he can."
But Crosby also conceded much has changed since 2003-04 and 2004-05 when he was playing junior hockey.
"The rules, there was more clutching and grabbing and things like that I think you definitely saw a lot of that," Crosby said. "It's only nine, 10 years or whatever it is, but it's changed even since then. A lot less fighting and things like that."
McDavid, a native of Newmarket, Ont., leads the Ontario Hockey League with 16 goals and 35 assists in just 18 games this season. That's a pace that would've gotten him past Crosby's 168 point total in his second season in the QMJHL.