COLE HARBOUR, Nova Scotia -- Sidney Crosby brought quite the present to his hometown during a celebration of his 22nd birthday.
The Penguins captain arrived in Halifax on Friday carrying the Stanley Cup, landing in a military helicopter on the flight deck of HMCS Preserver. Crosby then took the NHL's iconic championship trophy on a tour of Cole Harbour, the suburban community where he was raised.
"That's what we get a kick out of, us players, is the sharing with everyone," said Crosby, who also made a private visit to a children's hospital in Halifax.
"When you finally win it, you realize the experience that comes with it and how good that is," he added. "I'm finding that out right now, but it's probably everything and better."
Crosby began the day by addressing hundreds of members of the Canadian military and their families at the Halifax Dockyard, including Defense Minister Peter MacKay and Rear Admiral Paul Maddison. Many in the crowd were decked out in Penguins jerseys.
Meagan and Ryan Lunn of Cole Harbour expressed their appreciation for Crosby. Their father, Mike, is deployed to Afghanistan.
"I'm just so grateful that we met him," Meagan Lunn said. "The guys at the unit arranged this for us because I love Sidney, and it was just good to meet him."
Crosby said because of the city's connection with the military, he wanted to start the day by sharing the Stanley Cup with members of the Armed Forces.
"This is something that I felt was important," he said. "There's a lot of troops that aren't here right now who are overseas. ... But for the ones who are here, I thought they would really get a kick out of it."
Crosby then led a parade through Cole Harbour, where thousands of people showed up for a series of events, including a concert by Sam Roberts. Fans sat 10-deep in some places along the parade route, and police said the crowd was estimated at about 25,000.
"He's bringing something back that he's worked for a long time," said 16-year-old Francis Castein. "He should know that we are really, really proud of him."
The Penguins captured the Stanley Cup by defeating the Detroit Red Wings in seven games, making Crosby the youngest captain to ever lead his team to the championship.
Sid the Kid's career has been chronicled since he was a boy in Cole Harbour, where his prodigious talent emerged at a young age. After learning to skate on the local rinks, Crosby attended Shattuck St. Mary's, a Minnesota boarding school known for its hockey program.
He returned to Canada to play junior hockey and led the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League to a Memorial Cup final in 2005.
There was plenty of buildup for Crosby's NHL debut. Years before he was drafted, Wayne Gretzky said he was the best player he'd seen since Mario Lemieux, and the hockey world buzzed that "The Next One" was coming.
Crosby was the much-anticipated first overall pick in the 2005 NHL draft, and didn't disappoint during his rookie year, finishing sixth in the league in scoring and becoming the youngest player to record 100 points in a season.
In his second season with the franchise, Crosby started to shine. He led the NHL in scoring and became the youngest player to win the Art Ross trophy. Crosby was also the league's most valuable player and the players' association voted him the outstanding player.