Hockey

Mike Brophy - Monday Nov. 18, 2013 12:13 ET

Sidney Crosby’s leadership key for Sochi

Pressure doesn’t change his approach to the game

  • Crosby has been a go-to guy on every team he's played on
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    Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby has been the go-to guy on every team he has ever played on. (Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)

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  • While in the QMJHL, Crosby scored over 300 points in two seasons
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    Sidney Crosby’s rise to stardom was on display while playing for the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL. In his last season with the club, Crosby scored 66 goals, 102 assists and 168 points in 62 games, while leading the Oceanic to a Memorial Cup final appearance in 2005. (Paul Darrow/Reuters)

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  • Crosby won World Junior gold for Canada in 2005
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    As part of a dominant Canadian squad, Crosby, centre, along with Patrick Bergeron, left, and Corey Perry led Canada to the 2005 gold medal at the 2005 world junior championship in Grand Forks, N.D. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

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  • At the 2005 NHL draft, Crosby was selected first overall
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    Hall of Fame player and Pittsburgh Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, right, gives Crosby his team jersey and hat after his protégé was selected first overall in the 2005 NHL draft in Ottawa. (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

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  • Crosby the Tonight Show with Jay Leno in August 2005
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    Crosby, left, made an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in August of 2005 prior to his rookie season. (Margaret Norton/Getty Images)

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  • The youngest captain in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup
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    At 21, Crosby became the youngest captain in NHL history to lead his team to a Stanley Cup title in 2009. (Paul Sancya/Associated Press)

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  • Crosby missed many games between 2011 and 2012 with concussion symptoms
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    Concussions that have plagued Crosby for almost three years began at the 2011 Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals. (Keith Srakocic/Associated Press)

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  • The rivalry with Alex Ovechkin is one of the best in hockey
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    Crosby, left, has had many battles with Russian sniper Alexander Ovechkin, including a round-robin game that Canada easily won at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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  • Crosby scored the golden goal for Canada at the 2010 Olympics
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    Crosby’s overtime goal against the U.S., at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics propelled Canada to a gold-medal victory. (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

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  • Crosby has been a go-to guy on every team he's played on
  • While in the QMJHL, Crosby scored over 300 points in two seasons
  • Crosby won World Junior gold for Canada in 2005
  • At the 2005 NHL draft, Crosby was selected first overall
  • Crosby the Tonight Show with Jay Leno in August 2005
  • The youngest captain in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup
  • Crosby missed many games between 2011 and 2012 with concussion symptoms
  • The rivalry with Alex Ovechkin is one of the best in hockey
  • Crosby scored the golden goal for Canada at the 2010 Olympics

When you have been the man since, well, you were a boy, being in the spotlight never loses its luster.

Just ask Sidney Crosby.

Sid the Kid, who is not really a kid anymore at 26 years old, knows all about being the straw that stirs the drink. The athlete from Cole Harbour, N.S., been the go-to guy on every team he has ever played on. 

That won’t change when he heads to Sochi in February to defend the Olympic gold medal Canada won in Vancouver in 2010.

You might recall that game – you know, the one where the upstart United States team took Canada to overtime in the deciding contest only to have Crosby connect on a pass from Jarome Iginla. 

On a team that had plenty of veteran leadership, including forwards Iginla, Joe Thornton and Brendan Morrow as well defenceman Chris Pronger, Dan Boyle and Scott Niedermayer and goalies Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo, it’s not surprising the fate of a nation wound up resting on the shoulders of Crosby.

After all, he is widely regarded as the best player in the world. 

Crosby is used to the pressure. He felt it as a junior in the 2004-05 Memorial Cup final, which his Rimouski Oceanic lost to the powerhouse London Knights. He felt it in back-to-back Stanley Cup finals with the Penguins, one that his team lost and the other a victory. He felt it against Team USA in Vancouver in 2010.

Always in the spotlight

Pressure for Sidney Crosby is simply a way of life.

“It doesn’t affect the way I think,” Crosby said. “It is something that I have gotten used to and I think as an athlete you want that opportunity to be looked upon as someone your team looks to.” 

Even though he was surrounded by veterans in Vancouver, those players also looked to him to lead the way – to make an impact as they knew he could.

“Whenever you have a player of his calibre, you’re always going to look at him for his leadership, regardless of his age,” Pronger said. 

“Guys look to those types of players that can make a difference and be catalysts whether it’s for offence or defence.… Anything he is involved in, there’s always going to be a lot of pressure on him, and on the team he’s on, to win and perform to a Superman-type level.”

With many of the veterans who were there in Vancouver either retired or a too old to be a part of the 2014 team, Crosby knows there will be even more stress on him in Sochi. He also knows there are other qualified leaders that will help with the leadership; players such as Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Shea Weber and possibly Boyle and Martin St. Louis.

“I don’t really change my mindset, but there are guys that were there the last time that will take on more of a leadership role,” Crosby said. “I don’t think I have to change much or change my focus. It’s just kind of a natural progression.”

It’s one thing to try to win a marathon that is the NHL season – 82 regular season games followed by four rounds of playoffs. An Olympic hockey tournament, however, offers different challenges. You don’t necessarily have to be great from start to finish, but it is important to improve steadily and for players to find their roles. 

Many of the players that will be asked to be defensive stalwarts for Team Canada are the offensive stars for their own NHL teams. For those players, the key is to check their egos at the door.

Crosby healthy again

Since the gold medal victory in Vancouver, Crosby’s career has taken a few twists and turns. He suffered a concussion and took a slap shot to the face that both limited his playing time and put his career in jeopardy. During the times he was out and working to get back to health, Crosby said he never thought ahead to the 2014 Olympics.

“I wasn’t looking that far into the future,” he said.

Crosby is healthy this year and is also back to being one of the most dominant players in the NHL. There is pressure on him to get the Penguins back to the Stanley Cup final and he knows there is more pressure waiting just around the corner regarding Canada’s participation in the Olympics. He’s ready for it.

“It’s not like your everyday regular season game. It’s definitely different. Going back to Vancouver, as a team and individually there was a lot of pressure there. That’s just something you have to deal with as an athlete whether you’re a hockey player for Team Canada or if you are a downhill skier and you have one chance to make your best run and win a gold medal. 

“Everyone feels pressure in a different way. It’s just there. There’s no hiding from it.”

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