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
``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
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.