Crosby looks forward to learning from Lemieux

Updated: August 12, 2005, 4:37 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby spent his first full day in Pittsburgh on Thursday, yet it already must feel like home. For all the attention he's getting, the autographs he's signing, the tickets he's selling, it seems as though he's back in Canada.

Crosby, hockey's most prized prospect in two decades and already one of Canada's best-known athletes, didn't know what to expect from his first visit to his new city. Yet he couldn't have expected this: A rock star-like arrival at the airport, a police escort and fans yelling his name, though he has yet to take his NHL first shift or skate in his first Penguins practice.

``I didn't anticipate anything -- I was just showing up and seeing what the town and people were about, but it was a very welcoming sight,'' Crosby said. ``I'm sure the energy and excitement in town are going to rub off on the players. It's nice to see everybody's so excited about getting hockey started.''

The Steelers normally dominate the city's sports news in August, yet the media contingent for Crosby's first day with the Penguins was larger than that covering the Steelers' training camp.

Three TV crews from Canadian sports networks made the trip south to cover Crosby taking a physical exam and doing conditioning tests. He also found time for a quick tour of Mellon Arena, his new home ice, and to visit owner-player Mario Lemieux's spacious house, where he will live during his rookie season.

It's not because the Penguins think their most prized teenager since Lemieux in 1984 will be less tempted to break curfew if he's staying at the boss' house. Rather, Crosby can't think of a better way to experience the NHL than being guided on and off the ice by a Hall of Famer whose career he has long emulated.

``It's going to be nice just to talk to him and talk about some hockey things,'' Crosby said. ``It's been busy, with the lottery and the draft, and I just want to get started and see what the level of play is like and get out there and push myself and get ready for the season.''

Crosby has been doing that since last week, working out in Los Angeles with other NHL players. He plans to return there before the Penguins start practicing Sept. 13, as sort of a training camp for training camp.

``It's getting used to the speed, and in a practice atmosphere like that the passes are harder, the guys are stronger, so getting used to it is going to take a little bit of time,'' Crosby said. ``I definitely see a bit of improvement as I go on out there, It's going to help me, definitely, when I come here.''

The Penguins have another way to get Crosby quickly up to speed, by putting him on a line with Lemieux. Coach Eddie Olczyk hasn't said if he will do so, yet it seems certain he'll pair the two at some point, even if not for every shift of every game.

``That would be unbelievable, but I'm not going to have any expectations going in,'' Crosby said. ``I'm not sure how the lines are going to shape up but, if I had the opportunity, it would be a dream.''

Crosby is encouraged by the overnight facelift the Penguins have undergone since drafting him July 30, signing free agent defenseman Sergei Gonchar and forwards Ziggy Palffy and Andre Roy and trading for goaltender Jocelyn Thibault. Suddenly, a team coming off three consecutive losing seasons is thinking playoffs -- a place few No. 1 draft picks visit during their rookie seasons.

``I'm excited to play with any guys in the NHL, but when you see some of the names they're bringing in, I mean it's going to be a great experience,'' he said. ``No. 1 draft picks go to a place that's rebuilding and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to play with a team that's going to compete every night.''

The Penguins signed center Shane Endicott, a 2000 second-round draft pick, to a multiyear contract. Endicott, 23, had 24 goals and 23 assist in 68 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) last season.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press