Crosby's 2K generation
"I'd never complain about the attention — ever. I feel very fortunate to be doing what I love to do. Not everyone gets that chance every day. This is just part of it, and it comes down to managing my time to make sure I concentrate on my passion, which is the hockey, and have time away from hockey."The Minnesota hockey press does a nice job in general, and they produced some great pieces over the past day or so with hockey royalty in town, for the first time, to face the Wild on Tuesday night. Crosby ended up putting on quite a show, with a goal and three assists, only the third four-point performance ever put up by a visitor at the generally stingy Xcel Energy Center.
I wasn't old enough to watch and appreciate and digest the arrival of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, to see what they meant to the game and the league even as teenagers. Who were they then, and how did they evolve into the icons they are now? Highlight packages can't exactly fill in all the details, although I've pieced together what I could.
Still, it's doubly interesting now, given how close I am to the proceedings, to watch Crosby come of age.
The demands on Crosby are incredible, something Penguins staff members get into a bit in this excellent feature from Mike Russo of the Star Tribune. He's the face of NHL 2.0, the web generation, where information travels lightning quick and there's never enough of it. My guess is his name's appeared in print, newspaper or electronic, millions of times more than Gretzky's or Lemieux's at this stage in their careers.
For one, those two were both in remote hockey outposts, Edmonton and Pittsburgh, places where the bright lights didn't much get out to. There wasn't the Centre Ice package or ESPN back then, and even as records were shattered in the mid-80s, they occurred as afterthoughts, shown more in year-end clips than as-it-happened highlights.
Just imagine how ubiquitous their feats would be now? How instant?
Anyway, enough of that. But I guess what I'm getting at speaks to something I saw at the NHL Awards, the only time I've really been able to share the same space with Crosby so far. He gave a press conference after cleaning up in the ceremonies, speaking to the press with the Hart Trophy gleaming beside him, but afterwards, in his downtime, it wasn't really all that down. There were fans with cellphones, taking his picture from a few feet away as he stood, quietly at the side of the room, waiting for the various NHL handlers to direct him where next his wild ride would go.
Then there are the stories from Halifax, where Crosby summers in house not far from his small hometown of Cole Harbour. Trips to the local watering hole with former friends and teammates, sitting silently off to the side — interrupted by fans. "Yes," he'd say to an autograph. "No," to a picture, for fear its destination was Deadspin or drunkathlete.com or — who knows?
I don't envy that because, well, I don't think it's something I could cope with nearly as well. Who could?
Crosby's 20 years old and already the face of the NHL, but he's also hockey's face online, now and in the near future, and it's going to be interesting how his life, and career, comes together in the public spotlight like this. At least he's in Pittsburgh, reasonably sheltered from it all, but as I've said, the web changes that, just a bit.
Not that I think there's any dirt there to uncover.
Jacques 'Master Yoda' Lemaire gets the last word on this night, from St. Paul:
"He's among the top players, there's no doubt," Lemaire said. "And he will be the top player. I think he is right now, in the National Hockey League.And I think that applies in more ways than one.
"It's hard to compare, because you look at his size, there were players of his size [in the past]. But work like he works, they will not."